An extensive list of issues needs to be addressed during a divorce in Alabama, including the division of marital property and debt.
The law in Alabama is clear, and when a marriage is transitioning through a divorce, the marital property split must be equitable and fair.
If the couple cannot create a resolution for the division of their marital property and debt, the case will likely go to court before an arbitrator or judge to reach a decision. This article will discuss the division of marital property and debt in Alabama, so you know what to expect.
Alabama Is An Equitable Distribution State
Equitable distribution in Alabama means that marital property and debt will be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. In an Alabama divorce, all parties must disclose all assets and obligations held by the couple. The court is not required to divide marital property 50/50 but will consider all factors for an equitable distribution of property, assets, and debts.
The Division of Marital Property Process
There are three essential steps to the process for the division of marital property, whether you go to court or a DIY divorce, which include the following:
- Identify and determine which property, assets, and debt is marital and separate
- Come to an agreement on the value of marital property
- Create a plan on how to divide marital property and debt
Remember that many factors in an Alabama divorce go into determining how to divide property and debt.
Separate Property vs. Marital Property in Alabama
When one person owns property before the marriage or acquires it through an inheritance or gift, the court usually considers it separate property, which will not be included in the division during a divorce. An exception may be if the parcel was utilized during the marriage to benefit both parties. For example, if the family home belonged only to one spouse before the wedding, however, a couple lived in it long-term, the court may decide to divide the home equity between spouses.
Most of the marital property acquired during a marriage includes art collections, life insurance policies, employee compensation plans, pensions, 401k, classic cars, and retirement benefits.
When a marriage lasts ten years or more, the court may award part of one spouse’s retirement account to the other party. Both parties will only be entitled to benefits earned before the marriage. Other guidelines include that the covered spouse must receive benefits when the divorce is filed; the other party can’t receive more than half of the benefits included in the property division and can’t receive benefits before their spouse or age 65.
Marital and separate property can also fall into the category of commingling. An example would be if one party owned a house before getting married and during the marriage, their spouse helped pay more of the mortgage and other expenses; the house would be considered a commingling property. The court will determine whether any commingled property is regarded as a “gift” to the marriage or whether the original owner should receive reimbursement.
If you and your spouse can work together to agree on dividing your assets, property, and debt, you can avoid court. Some people choose to have a premarital agreement drawn up before marriage to make the division of property much more manageable. However, if you don’t come to a resolution, the judge will review your circumstances and decide.
Assigning Value To Marital Property
There are several options for setting the value of your marital property. Sometimes both parties can agree and assign a value to each asset. If not possible, the court will assist you. Other options include getting appraisals or hiring a CPA or other financial professional to determine the value of retirement assets.
What Is Considered During Division Of Property In Alabama
The judge will consider the following factors when dividing property during a divorce.
- Length of a marriage
- Potential and current income of each person
- How much each party contributed to the marriage financially
- The standard of living during the marriage
- If one person contributed to the education or career of their spouse
- What financial resources the custodial parent will need to adequately care for and maintain the lifestyle of their children
- Age and health of each party
- If anyone in the household has special medical needs
Division of Debt in an Alabama Divorce
Any debt that is created before the marriage remains the responsibility of the individual that incurred the debt. Therefore, gathering documents related to debt created before entering and during your marriage is important to ensure the debt is appropriately divided.
The division of debt uses the same essential criteria in the division of property uses, including the length of the marriage and the ability of each party to pay off any outstanding debts. However, it’s essential to understand that creditors will still attempt to collect their debts, including coming after you, even if your ex-spouse concludes that they will take on a specific debt if they don’t pay it.
If your spouse came into the marriage with significant debt liability or if you accrued debt together during the marriage, it is essential to hire an experienced divorce attorney to help you navigate your divorce and division of marital property and debt.
Brackin Law Is Here To Represent You
We understand how challenging divorce and other related legal issues can be. Our legal team has over 40 years of experience providing comprehensive family law representation in Baldwin County.
At Brackin Law Firm, we can help you whether you’re going through a divorce, child custody, support negotiations, estate planning, criminal defense, and more. Contact us today, and we will begin representing you right away!