Whether a couple was married for only a handful of years or for decades, how to divide marital property is usually a contentious issue. It can even be more confusing for individuals who are not working with the correct information. Here are a few things that those going through a divorce should understand about Alabama family law and how it handles property division.
Like most other states, Alabama handles property division through equitable division. This name can be deceiving, as many people hear "equitable division" and believe that everything will be split up evenly, 50/50. Equitable actually means that the division should be fair to both parties. In theory this could look like an equal split, but it could also mean that the most fair situation would be for one person to get closer to 66% or another percentage of the property. This is especially true for higher earners.
This division only applies to marital property, sometimes referred to as community property. This is property that is jointly owned by both spouses. Marital property is usually anything that was acquired during the marriage, which includes things like debts. Separate property are the things that people owned before getting married, or gifts and inheritances that were specifically given to them. Sometimes the way that a person treats his or her separate property could also turn it into marital property.
While a divorcing couple might agree that each spouse should receive a fair share of the marital property, they might not agree on the definition of fair. If a couple is using an alternative dispute resolution for their divorce, such as mediation, they may be able to seek further guidance from their attorney. When the parties simply cannot agree, an Alabama family law judge will likely render his or her decision on the matter.