Yes, you can still work and receive alimony in Alabama. However, how much you can get depends on a variety of factors. In 2018, alimony laws changed in Alabama. Under the previous law, courts could award “periodic” alimony, which basically allowed payments to continue indefinitely. The current law changed the terminology from “periodic” alimony to “rehabilitative” alimony and restricted its payments to five years or less.
The purpose behind restricting the years to five and renaming it “rehabilitative” was the Legislature’s attempt to restore the receiving party to a similar economic level they had been accustomed to during the marriage in the years immediately after a marriage. But it also serves to limit that time period so that both spouses can go ahead in making their own living after the five year mark.
If there is a large disparity in your post-divorce income (i.e., your ex-spouse is making significantly more than you and you were accustomed to a higher standard of living while married) then a judge would take that into consideration, along with length of marriage and other factors, when calculating alimony. While rehabilitative alimony is clearly favored by the law now, the court can in some situations find that rehabilitative alimony is not reasonable. The court must express its reasoning for awarding alimony beyond the five year mark.
Once the court finds a reason to extend alimony beyond the five year mark, it may not award alimony for a length of time longer than the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for 12 years, the maximum length of time alimony could be awarded would be 12 years. However, if the parties have been married longer than 20 years, there is no time limit on how long alimony may be awarded. So the court can still grant alimony that goes on indefinitely, but it only in “extraordinary circumstances.” One benefit of this, however, is that it gives parties a better idea of what they can expect when it comes to alimony if they go to trial.
Another change that came with the new 2018 law relates to retirement accounts. Before 2018, a couple had to be married for ten years before the court could award retirement benefits to a spouse as part of the divorce terms. This gives the parties more options during the divorce process, but the courts will likely award retirement benefits in a similar fashion to alimony – the longer the length of the marriage, the more likely a spouse is to receive the benefits and at a higher rate.
One common misconception is that only women can get alimony, but that is not true. In 1979, the US Supreme Court decided a case (Orr v. Orr) which challenged Alabama’s then-existing law that only women could receive alimony. The Supreme Court said that was unconstitutional, thus men can, when the facts justify it, also receive alimony. For example, consider a couple married for 20 years. At the time of the divorce, the wife had been making $150,000 for several years and the husband made $65,000. The judge could decide the wife needed to pay the husband alimony for a certain period of time due to the length of their marriage and the disparity in their income.
The Alabama Supreme Court has said, “each case must be decided upon its own relevant facts in the light of what is fair and reasonable.” Thus, there is no set rule about the amount of alimony that must be paid. That is why it is so important to have an experienced, local divorce attorney to be your advocate during your divorce. The divorce process is one of the most stressful processes a person can go through in their life, and a contested divorce is even more stressful.