marital misconduct

Does Marital Misconduct Affect Alimony and Divorce in Alabama?

When you think about the end of a marriage, it’s easy to point fingers. In most cases, a million little mistakes or missteps lead to the end of a marriage. However, that isn’t always the case. When one person’s actions are the sole reason for a divorce, you may wonder if the other person has any recourse. Under Alabama law, a wronged spouse may have some legal options available to them.

Feeling overwhelmed and unsure about what comes after your decision to divorce? The team at Kirk Drennan Law is here to help you. Call us at 205-803-3500 to set up a consultation now.

What is Marital Misconduct?

Marital misconduct refers to very specific actions that can lead to a fault-based divorce. A limited number of states still grant a fault-based divorce; most have moved to a no-fault system that cites “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for a divorce. In Alabama, someone can file for fault-based divorce for several reasons:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment for a period of at least 12 months
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Imprisonment for at least two years and a sentence of at least seven years
  • Crime against nature
  • Institutionalization for at least five years
  • Wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage but did not tell husband

If one spouse engages in any of these behaviors and the other spouse can prove it, they may be able to seek a fault-based divorce—and yes, that does affect spousal support and the division of assets.

How Alabama Looks at Marital Misconduct

Since Alabama has laws on the books benefiting those who are the victim of marital misconduct, it makes sense that family courts would penalize those who engage in misconduct. If someone can prove that the grounds for a fault-based divorce are true, they stand to benefit when the court determines the division of assets and spousal support.

Property Division and Alimony

The family court may make their spousal support decision based on whether or not either party cheated. For example, if the higher-earning spouse was unfaithful to the lower-earning spouse, the court may award a higher amount of alimony to compensate the wronged party. On the flip side, if the lower-earning spouse was unfaithful, their own alimony may be in jeopardy as a result. If both parties were unfaithful, it’s largely up to the court’s discretion.

The same is true for the division of assets. Alabama follows the rule of equitable distribution, which means that assets are divided in a way that is fair. This isn’t necessarily the same as an equal split of assets. If one party was mistreated in the marriage because of their partner’s marital misconduct, the court may choose to give them a greater share of the marital assets.

As a side note, marital misconduct may even affect child custody. While adultery won’t affect custody decisions, a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse will definitely affect how the court views their ability to parent.

How an Attorney Can Help You

While the court does have a lot of discretion in this area, most decisions are made during negotiations between the divorcing spouses and their attorneys. A strong divorce attorney will be able to look at the information you’ve provided, decide how best to use it, and negotiate aggressively to get you what you deserve in a divorce settlement. This may be especially important to you if you’ve been a victim of marital misconduct—if your marriage is ending through no fault of your own, you should be able to leave the marriage with everything you need for a fresh start.

Fault-based divorces depend heavily on proof of the other party’s misconduct. That’s why it’s important to get an attorney involved as early as possible in the process.

Contact Kirk Drennan Law for Help with Your Divorce

If you’re determined to get your fair share of the marital estate during a divorce, you need an attorney willing to fight for you. That’s where we come in. The team at Kirk Drennan Law advocates fiercely for each and every client, both during negotiations and in the courtroom. Schedule a consultation with our team now by calling us at 205-803-3500 or contacting us online.

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