Adultery in Alabama: Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

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With divorce levels increasing across the nation, one fact has remained relatively stable: cheating is often a death knell to a marriage relationship. While some actions such as abuse or neglect are more likely to always result in a divorce, cheating happens more often, and thus, more spouses seek a divorce based on adultery more often than on other at-fault ground.

As many spouses know, cheating often has consequences. Aside from the effect of cheating on the marriage itself, cheating may affect the divorce process and any alimony awards received by the spouses. Each state varies on how exactly adultery will affect an alimony award, and so this article is intended to clarify that issue for the state of Alabama.

The Nature of Divorce in Alabama

Before discussing whether adultery or cheating would affect an award of alimony or spousal support, the nature of divorce in Alabama must be examined. Married couples in Alabama can seek a divorce for any one of twelve reasons.1 While Alabama does have no-fault divorce, eleven of the grounds for divorce in Alabama are at-fault grounds for divorce. Adultery is one of those specific divorce grounds.

About Alabama Alimony Rules

Alabama’s alimony laws have recently been amended, and the new law takes effect on January 1, 2018. 2017.2 In Alabama, there are  three types of alimony: periodic alimony, alimony in gross, and rehabilitative alimony. Periodic alimony are payments over time, usually monthly either for a set period of time or indefinitely. Alimony in gross is a lump-sum award granted immediately after the divorce. While periodic alimony and alimony in gross are intended for support purposes, rehabilitative alimony is intended as temporary assistance to help a financially inferior or educationally inferior spouse transition into single life.

When Alabama Courts make an award of alimony, a key consideration of the amount of alimony is equity (or fairness). Factors for considering the amount of alimony include: the spouses’ individual assets, distribution of marital property in the divorce, the spouses’ ability to earn wages, and child custody determinations.

The Effect of Adultery and Other For-Cause Grounds for Divorce on Alimony

Under Alabama law (new and old), the court may consider any adultery when deciding to grant either periodic or rehabilitative alimony. Even where the divorce is granted on no-fault grounds, the court may still consider adultery in deciding whether to award alimony.3 The actual affect of any adultery will depend on the judge hearing your divorce case. Because the amount of alimony is discretionary, some instances of adultery may result in higher awards, particularly where the adultery was more pronounced, extreme, or longstanding.

The Verdict:

Cheaters beware! Alabama courts certainly will consider any adultery that occurred during the marriage regardless of whether the spouses are seeking a no-fault divorce or an at-fault divorce.

If your spouse has been cheating on you and you plan to sue for divorce, you should consider contacting a local divorce attorney for assistance. Divorces involving adultery claims tend to be very messy lawsuits and will be very difficult to litigate on your own. Your rights can be best protected by proactively protecting your ability to succeed in your divorce litigation.

Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.

Resources:

  1. Alabama Code § 30-2-1.
  2. Ala. Acts 164, § 2.
  3. Marshall v. Marshall, 392 So. 2d 226 (Ala. 1980).