Choosing to divorce in Alabama can be a difficult decision. Much like marrying, divorcing is a legally binding process that requires preparation and careful consideration. Once you know that divorce is inevitable in your marriage, however, you’re going to start wondering about the potential outcome of the process. There are many uncertainties involved in divorce, including custody of minor children, child and spousal support (alimony), and division of your marital assets and debts.

While every marriage is inherently unique, knowing how the courts approach asset division in Alabama can help you understand the likely outcome of your divorce. Even if you can’t predict exactly what terms the courts will set, barring the existence of a valid prenuptial agreement, you can create an informed guess about the potential outcome of asset division when you understand state laws on the topic.

Alabama is an equitable distribution state

State law in Alabama requires that the courts work toward fair and equitable distribution of marital property in a divorce. Separate assets, including possessions from before marriage, gifts and inherited items, are generally exempt from the asset division process. Most everything else, however, could end up split between you and your spouse, from your home equity to the value of your motor vehicles.

The courts will look at many factors when deciding how to divide your assets. Marital misconduct, such as infidelity or abuse, could factor into the outcome. The financial situations of both spouses can also factor into the decision. The length of your marriage can factor into how your assets end up divided as well.

For example, Alabama law requires that a marriage last at least ten years for a pension or retirement account to end up divided as a result of a divorce. For couples whose marriage lasted as least a decade, divorces and pensions are subject to division, even if only one spouse ever contributed to them.

Debts are also subject to division

Just like your possessions, from your home to your cookware, your debts incurred during marriage will also likely end up split in a divorce. Credit card debt, medical debt and even student loan debt from during your marriage will likely get split between spouses.

Even if only one spouse incurred the debt, if the money was used for the household or, in the case of student loans, with the intention of contributing to the household, the courts could very well divide it between both spouses.

One exception to that rule, however, is dissipation of marital funds. If one spouse went on a credit-fueled spending spree prior to filing for divorce, the courts may hold that individual responsible for that debt. Similarly, if one spouse wasted marital assets while conducting an affair, the courts could factor that into the asset division decision.