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Types of Alimony in Alabama: Temporary vs. Permanent Alimony

Divorced woman holding envelope with alimony, savings for single mom, allowance

The legal landscape for alimony (a.k.a. spousal support or spousal maintenance) has changed over the last few decades. Dual-income families are much more common, and parents are more likely to split home-care and child-care responsibilities. Alimony is not guaranteed, and in many states, even when it is granted, it’s meant to serve a particular purpose rather than exist permanently.

Temporary Alimony

In Alabama, “temporary” alimony does not typically mean alimony for a set term of years. Instead, temporary alimony, also called alimony pendente lite, is alimony granted for the duration of the divorce. Temporary alimony is meant to help the recipient spouse remain financially solvent while the divorce case proceeds and is meant to end when the final divorce order is issued (at which time, if appropriate, some other form of alimony will be ordered). Temporary alimony ensures that both parties have financial resources during the divorce, giving the lower-earning spouse the capacity to participate in the lawsuit and granting them time to prepare their budget and finances for post-divorce life.

Permanent Alimony

Historically, permanent alimony meant alimony that was paid until the death of either spouse or possibly until the remarriage of the recipient spouse. Once common, truly “permanent” alimony is no longer the norm in Alabama or elsewhere. Permanent alimony really means alimony for an indefinite, long-term period.

These days, permanent alimony is reserved for cases in which the spouses were married for a very long time, the recipient spouse served as the homemaker, and the recipient spouse will likely never be able to financially support themselves. Even in such a case, there are grounds to modify or eliminate so-called permanent alimony. If the recipient spouse remarries, or even cohabitates with a new romantic partner, the payor can move to end their alimony obligation. Alimony will also end with the death of either spouse, and it will often end when the paying party retires.

Other Types of Alimony in Alabama

Alabama courts use additional terms to delineate different forms of alimony. Depending upon the financial circumstances of each party, the length of the marriage, and other factors, the following types of alimony might be awarded:

  • Periodic alimony. Periodic alimony refers to alimony paid on a regular basis, such as bi-weekly or monthly. Periodic alimony can apply for a defined length of time or continue indefinitely until there is a major life change for either party. “Permanent” alimony is a form of periodic alimony. Periodic alimony can be modified upon either party showing a significant change in life circumstances.

  • Lump-sum alimony. Lump-sum alimony refers to alimony paid as a single lump sum, typically upon divorce.

  • Rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is a form of periodic alimony under which the paying spouse pays the recipient spouse until the recipient can financially support themselves. Rehabilitative alimony is meant to help the recipient get the education, training, and other resources necessary to get a job and become financially independent. Once the recipient has a job and can support themselves, rehabilitative alimony will be terminated. Rehabilitative alimony is often limited to a set period, typically no more than five years following the divorce.

  • Alimony in gross. Gross alimony is a one-time property settlement.

Alabama courts tend to view alimony as rehabilitative, preferring to set a time limit or defined finalizing event. Permanent or long-term alimony is reserved for cases in which the parties were married for a long time and it’s unlikely the recipient could ever support themselves financially. Your Alabama spousal maintenance lawyer can advise you on how to obtain the alimony that you need or how to limit the alimony you’ll have to pay following your divorce.

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