A spouse who is at fault for the divorce may still ask for temporary or permanent alimony. The court may be willing to grant that spouse alimony, depending on the circumstances of the case. The court may consider the spouses at fault behavior as a factor in determining alimony.
Temporary alimony is alimony awarded until the divorce is final. Permanent alimony is awarded when the divorce is finalized. If the party ordered to pay alimony chooses not to do so, the judge can find them in contempt of court. The court will find them and even order them to serve time in jail.
Fault and no-fault divorces
A no-fault divorce in Montgomery is one in which the spouses agree that neither person is to blame for the marriage ending. An at-fault divorce is one in which one spouse states the other is responsible for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Grounds for an at fault divorce include:
- incarceration for certain prolonged periods
- addiction to alcohol or drugs
- mental incapacity
- cruelty and
- conditions which existed at the time of the marriage without the knowledge of the other party, like pregnancy and incurable physical problems.
When one spouse states the other is at fault, the other spouse can agree or contest the reason. If the other spouse agrees, the parties can work out the terms for an uncontested divorce in Shelby County, Alabama. The spouses will share their assets and debts by making a full financial disclosure. They will then form a marital settlement agreement (MSA) about the division of property.
The spouse who will pay alimony can agree to pay both temporary and permanent alimony in the MSA. This is one way a spouse who is at fault for the divorce in Madison County can get alimony, if the spouse who is not at fault agrees on their own to pay it. After the parties agree to the MSA and sign it, they bring the MSA to the judge. The judge will issue the terms of the MSA as orders for both parties to follow.
If the other spouse contests the reason for fault, the parties will have a contested divorce. A contested divorce takes longer and is more expensive than an uncontested divorce. The judge will order the spouses to make a full financial disclosure to one another. Then the judge or a jury will decide the terms of property division, including alimony payments.
The court, here meaning the judge or the jury, may find it fundamentally unfair for an at-fault spouse not to receive alimony. For example, say the parties were married for 20 years. The at-fault spouse gave up their career to care for the couple’s children for 18 years. The at-fault spouse then developed a substance abuse issue in the 19th year. The marriage was irretrievably broken because of this issue by the 20th year. The court would likely hold that the at-fault spouse is deserving of temporary alimony before the divorce is final. They are also deserving of permanent alimony after the divorce. This is because of the work and sacrifices that the at-fault spouse made during the marriage.
Working effectively with an attorney
A spouse who thinks they are at fault for the breakdown of the marriage should talk with their divorce attorney about mitigating factors, the work they put into the marriage, a family business, and rearing children, and reasons the other spouse may be at fault. The spouse who is said to be at fault may not actually bear all of the responsibility for the breakdown of the marriage.
It is important for a client to disclose prenuptial and postnuptial agreements that could limit alimony. There are ways to work around these, especially if the terms are fundamentally unfair or the client signed them under pressure. In addition, a client should talk to their divorce attorney about the five-year rule about rehabilitative alimony.
This type of alimony is meant to allow a person to get training or work experience to be able to have the status quo that was in place during the marriage. The exception to the 5-year limit is if there are extraordinary circumstances. A client who wants to make a case that there are extraordinary circumstances should gather documents to show their attorney what the status quo was during the marriage and why retraining may not be enough.
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!