If you think back to when you were planning your wedding, you were probably thinking more about getting the dinner perfect than about which one of you might get that perfect dining room table you received as a wedding gift. It’s only natural; who’s thinking about how their possessions are going to be divided in a divorce before they even get married? But in the Yellowhammer State, it could come down to a judge deciding who gets what after a divorce. If it does, do you know how do the courts make their choices? This is an introduction to marital property laws in Alabama.
Marital Property Law
The legal term “marital property” is defined broadly as all the possessions and interests acquired after a couple gets married. Some states have gone further and recognizes that all marital property is considered equally owned by both parties as "community property." And, after a divorce, this community property is equally divided. Alabama, like most states, has no community property laws on the books, therefore allowing for more flexibility (and more uncertainty) in property division following a divorce.
Marital Property Laws in Alabama
Each state may have unique marital property laws. Marital property laws in Alabama are highlighted in the table below.
Marital Property and Separate Property
With a few exceptions, the property you buy or receive while you are married becomes marital property, regardless of whose name is on the title. Marital property is jointly owned and will get jointly divided, as close to evenly as possible, should you get divorced. On the other hand, separate property is property what you owned before the marriage, and is generally not subject to division in a divorce. The exceptions to the marital property rule include things like inheritance, a gift, and in some cases a 401K that are instead considered separate property.
With no community property law on the books in Alabama, courts are tasked with determining a “fair” property division. Generally speaking, courts decide that each spouse getting about half of everything they own jointly is fair. However, a court could decide that an unequal property split is fair. If you don’t want to leave it up to the court and you and your spouse can come to your own agreement regarding property division, a court will generally accept that agreement.
Alabama Marital Property Laws: Related Resources
Sorting out marital property issues during a divorce can be complex, emotionally and legally. You can contact an Alabama divorce attorney if you would like legal assistance with a divorce or marital property matter. You can also visit FindLaw's divorce and property section for additional articles and information on this topic.