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New Alabama Divorce Laws

New Alabama Divorce Laws - Smith & McGhee

Despite what many believe, laws are not set in stone. What this means is that any statute is subject to change at any point and those changes could have implications for you, positive or otherwise. Divorce law in Alabama has experienced changes over the past decade, and this is something that is expected to continue.

The most recent changes to Alabama’s divorce law could have far-reaching consequences for people of all income levels who are either thinking about getting a divorce or are considering requesting a change in their rights or obligations.

As always, laws related to divorce can be complex and confusing. If you don’t understand Alabama law or how it applies to your situation, you should consult with an experienced legal advisor. The Alabama family law attorneys at Smith & McGhee, PC, are happy to sit down with you to discuss your options.

Changes Regarding Alabama Divorce and Alimony

HB 257 was passed by the Alabama legislature and delivered to the governor for signature in April 2017. The law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The significance of this law is that it substantially changes the state’s treatment of alimony by giving trial courts more authority to award periodic alimony as opposed to lifetime payments.

The major change provided by this law is that there are now limits on the award of “forever alimony.” The legislature has determined that only rehabilitative alimony is appropriate and that it should not exceed five years unless the court decides to deviate from the guidelines.

Even if the court does deviate from guidelines, they cannot award alimony for a period that is longer than the length of the marriage. The exception to this is if the marriage lasted 20 years or longer. If this is the case, there is no limit.

Courts can still award lifetime alimony but only under “extraordinary circumstances.”

Changes Regarding Alabama Divorce and Retirement

HB 208 is another bill that was passed and signed into law in April 2017. The law went into effect on Jan. 1 2018. This law impacts the ways that Alabama courts treat retirement benefits in a divorce.

One source of contention among divorcing couples is the sharing of retirement benefits. When a couple marries, they may do so with the agreement that all savings for retirement be held in one spouse’s account. This may be due to a favorable contribution matching program with an employer or for tax purposes.

In the past, there was no provision in the law to share these retirement savings if a couple had been married for less than ten years and then decided to divorce. This law changes that.

The law does not state that couples married under ten years “must” share retirement savings. What it does is give the parties negotiating a settlement and the courts more options and flexibility if a couple doesn’t meet the 10-year threshold.

How the New Tax Law Could Impact Your Divorce

In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, which makes some substantial changes to how certain payments are treated by the U.S. tax code. Under the old law, alimony and other maintenance payments were tax-deductible by the payor spouse and counted as includible income by the spouse receiving payment.

The new tax law treats these items differently. The spouse paying alimony or maintenance payments can no longer claim them as deductions. The law also repeals that provision that counts these payments as includable income for the recipient.

The Next Steps in an Alabama Divorce

If you are considering a divorce, are recently divorced, or are currently in the process of a divorce, you need to be aware of any changes to Alabama law that could affect your rights. These changes in the law can impact you financially, both now and many years into the future.

At Smith & McGhee, PC, our Alabama divorce attorneys have more than two decades of combined legal experience in family law. We consider it part of our job to understand this state’s legal trends and developments so that we can provide the most up-to-date legal advice to our clients.

Contact us now at our Dothan, AL office at 334-702-1744 or online to schedule a consultation.