Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Alabama

Learn about alimony in Alabama, including how judges decide whether you qualify, how much you should get, and for how long.

By , Legal Editor

It's no secret that going through a divorce can be emotional. But it can also leave you financially drained. If you need some financial help during or after the divorce, you might be wondering whether you can get alimony. Read on to learn how Alabama laws will guide judges when making decisions about whether to award alimony and, if so, how much and for how long.

What Types of Alimony are Available in Alabama?

Alabama law provides for three different types of alimony (sometimes called spousal support):

  • interim alimony, or payments from one spouse to the other while their divorce case is still proceeding
  • rehabilitative alimony, which is meant to help support a spouse for a limited period of time (up to five years) after the divorce, to give that spouse time to gain the necessary education, training, or skills necessary to become self-supporting,
  • periodic alimony, which may last longer than five years but usually no longer than the length of the marriage.

As we explain below, judges must follow different rules when deciding whether to award these different types of alimony.

How to Qualify for Interim Alimony in Alabama

Qualifying for interim alimony during a divorce in Alabama is relatively straightforward. The judge may order your spouse to pay this temporary support if you prove that:

  • your marriage is valid
  • you need the support, after taking into account your spouse's other financial contributions (under other temporary orders that the judge has issued), and
  • your spouse has the ability to pay the temporary support.

If you qualify for interim alimony, the judge will the decide the amount of that support based on the same factors that apply in decisions about rehabilitative alimony (discussed below). Because it can take time to rule on requests for interim alimony, the judge may make the award retroactive to the date that you or your spouse filed your divorce papers in Alabama.

While the divorce case is still going on, either spouse may ask the judge to change or stop interim alimony payments for a good reason. But once the divorce is final, temporary alimony automatically ends. (Ala. Code § 30-2-56 (2022).)

How to Qualify for Rehabilitative Alimony in Alabama

In Alabama, the judge will award rehabilitative alimony to one of the spouses only if all of the following are true:

  • that spouse doesn't have the means to be self-supporting at the same economic level as during the marriage
  • the other spouse can pay support "without undue hardship," and
  • awarding alimony would be fair under the circumstances.

Need and Ability to Pay Alimony

Alabama law spells out some of the circumstances that judges must consider when they're deciding whether one spouse needs rehabilitative support and whether the other spouse has the ability to pay it, including:

  • marital property that each spouse will receive and the debts each will be responsible for paying after the property division in the divorce
  • each spouse's own individual assets
  • how much each spouse is able to earn, in light of factors like work experience, age, health, and education
  • the paying spouse's net income
  • any benefits that are available to help the supported spouse get work, and
  • whether either spouse will have primary physical custody of a child who needs so much care that it wouldn't be appropriate to make that parent work outside the home.

(Ala. Code § 30-2-57 (2022).)

What Makes an Alimony Award Fair?

When deciding whether it would be fair to award rehabilitative alimony, judges must also consider other relevant evidence, such as:
  • each spouse's age and health
  • the standard of living that the couple had during the marriage
  • the extent to which each spouse was to blame for the breakdown of their marriage
  • each spouse's future employment prospects
  • whether either spouse contributed to the other's education or ability to earn
  • the extent to which one spouse reduced any income or career opportunities for the other spouse's benefit
  • either spouse's excessive spending or the destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of marital property
  • expenses related to domestic violence that led to a criminal conviction.

(Ala. Code § 30-2-57 (2022).)

Five-Year Limit on Rehabilitative Alimony

In Alabama, rehabilitative alimony may not last more than five years, except in "extraordinary circumstances." (Ala. Code § 30-2-57 (2022).)

How to Qualify for Periodic Alimony in Alabama

To qualify for periodic alimony, you must meet the same requirements as for rehabilitative alimony (discussed above). In addition, however, the judge must find that you haven't been able to become totally self-supporting despite serious attempts at rehabilitation, or that rehabilitation simply isn't feasible under the circumstances. (Ala. Code § 30-2-57 (2022).)

Time Limit on Periodic Alimony

As a general rule, you may not receive periodic alimony for longer than your marriage lasted. The only exceptions are if:

  • the judge finds that it's necessary to depart from that time limit, or
  • the marriage lasted longer than 20 years.

(Ala. Code § 30-2-57 (2022).)

How Is the Amount of Alimony Calculated in Alabama?

Alabama law doesn't provide a formula for calculating the amount of alimony, like the state's child support guidelines. Instead, it's up to the judge to decide what's fair, in light of what the receiving spouse needs and what the paying spouse is able to pay. The judge will base that decision on the same factors (described above) that must be considered when deciding whether to award alimony at all.

Modifying or Terminating Alimony in Alabama

A judge may modify an existing alimony order if a former spouse requests it and shows that there has been a change in circumstances that affects the need for alimony or the ability to pay it. (Ala. Code § 30-2-57(h) (2022).)

Judges must end alimony once the paying spouse requests it and proves that the receiving spouse has remarried or is living with a partner in a marriage-like relationship. (Ala. Code § 30-2-55 (2022).)

Taxes and Alimony

For any divorces that became final on or after January 1, 2019, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, alimony payments are not tax-deductible to the payer and are not counted as income for tax purposes for the recipient spouse.