Divorce is a complex event in one’s life, and the division of property can be one of its most contentious aspects when navigating divorce in Alabama. Alabama, like many states, has its unique rules and considerations when it comes to this matter. This article breaks down the critical elements of property division in contested divorces in order to provide clarity for those embarking on this challenging journey.
- Equitable Distribution State
Alabama follows the principle of equitable distribution. It’s vital to understand that “equitable” does not mean “equal.” Instead, the court seeks a division that is fair, considering various factors. When you call our Birmingham divorce attorney we will go over what you’re likely to receive at a future trial so you can determine what a fair settlement would be for you.
- Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
Marital Property: This includes assets and debts that the couple acquired during the marriage. Generally, these are subject to division.
Non-Marital Property: These are assets or debts that one party brought into the marriage or acquired as a personal gift or inheritance. Typically, they remain with the original owner and aren’t divided.
- Factors Influencing Property Division
While the division may begin with an even split in mind, several factors can tilt the balance:
- Length of the Marriage: Longer marriages might see a more equal division, especially if one spouse sacrificed career opportunities.
- Economic Circumstances: If one spouse has a significantly higher earning potential, it might affect the division.
- Custody of Children: The parent with primary custody might receive the family home or other assets to maintain stability for the children.
- Misconduct: If one party was responsible for the dissolution of the marriage (e.g., due to infidelity), the court might consider this during property division.
- Handling the Family Home
Deciding what happens to the family home can be particularly challenging. Options include:
- Selling and Dividing the Proceeds: Both parties may decide to sell the house and split the proceeds.
- One Spouse Retains the Home: One party might buy out the other’s share, often if they receive primary child custody or can afford to maintain the home on their own.
- Cohabitation: In rare cases, ex-spouses might decide to continue living together (in separate areas) for the sake of children or financial reasons.
- Retirement Accounts and Pensions
Retirement assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital property. Dividing these assets can be complex and may require specific court orders, like a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), to avoid significant tax penalties. A qualified family law attorney where you live can help you get a QDRO filed to divide such assets per your agreement or a final Order.
- Debts and Liabilities
Just as assets are divided, so are debts. This includes mortgages, car loans, credit card debts, and other liabilities. Responsibility for these debts is often linked to who retains the associated asset or who originally took on the debt.
- The Role of Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
If the couple has a valid prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement, it will typically dictate the terms of property division. Courts generally respect these agreements, provided they were entered into willingly and without deceit.
Navigating divorce and property division in Alabama requires a blend of legal knowledge and emotional tact. Given the intricacies involved, it’s often beneficial to consult with local divorce attorneys familiar with Alabama’s laws. Ultimately, understanding the foundational principles can help make an informed and fair decision for both parties involved.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!