One of the most common concerns people have when they consider if divorce is the best option for them is how property will be divided in the process. Often, people think that all property shall be split equally (50/50) with both parties getting one half of everything in the marriage. This commonly occurs in what are called Community Property States, where they follow the general rule that all property acquired during the marriage is community property and each spouse has a one half interest in it. This means all marital property in a divorce, which may include anything either party may have accumulated on their own but during the marriage, can be split up and the other party given half of it even if they had no part in earning the asset. This question can be a cause of strain and uncertainty during the divorce process if no one is sure what the rule on this is.
Alabama law has two categories of assets for divorcing couples: separate property and marital property. With only certain exceptions, anything that either spouse owned before the marriage is considered separate property. Usually any assets that either spouse earned, purchased, or otherwise obtained during the marriage is considered marital property. Examples of marital property can include bank accounts, cash stored in the home, investments, retirement accounts, business assets, real estate, vehicles, or any other thing of value acquired during the marriage.
Alabama does not follow a rigid 50/50 division of marital assets. Instead, Alabama divides assets under the more nuanced legal doctrine of equitable distribution. The goal in this approach is to have a fair and reasonable distribution of the couple’s assets. Note, however, that an equitable distribution does not always mean an actual, equal distribution of the marital assets. Alabama law gives judges the discretion to consider many factors in determining how to divide a couple’s assets, including: duration of the marriage, which party will be the custodial parent of any children from the marriage, each party’s monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage, the earning capacity of each party, whether one party was a homemaker or “stay-at-home” parent for minor children, what kind of financial state each party will be in after the divorce, and possibly any damaging behaviors exhibited by the parties leading up to or during the divorce process (e.g. infidelity, abuse, draining joint bank accounts, etc.).
While those factors help guide the court to a judgment of an equitable distribution of the couple’s assets, putting a dollar amount on many types of property can be difficult. Judges can consider input from the parties’ attorneys in considering dollar amounts and equitable distribution of assets. That’s just one reason why hiring an experienced local divorce attorney is crucial to represent your interests in Court
One of the many preferable features of an uncontested divorce is that those questions get worked out by the spouses themselves before they file anything or pay thousands of dollars in attorney fees. An uncontested divorce is where both spouses reach an agreement about things like dividing their assets before anything is ever filed with the courts.
The uncontested divorce agreement is executed at the beginning of the case, right when everything is filed, to show that there are no unresolved or disputed issues. This is generally the easiest way to get a quick and cheap divorce. If both spouses cannot come to an agreement on how to divide their assets, they cannot file an uncontested divorce. In this case they must file a contested divorce, which is much slower since the court will intervene and divide the couple’s assets for them.
However, if you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse it is good to remember that Alabama is not a 50/50 state where your spouse automatically gets one half of everything. Many factors come into play when a judge determines what both parties are awarded in a divorce.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!