The main issues in divorce
The law of divorce in Alabama (or for that matter in any state) comes down to four main issues:
- division of property and debts
- child support
- spousal support.
The actual legal principles of divorce law are relatively simple. Aside from child support, which in most cases flows from the application of a simple mathematical formula, trial courts enjoy broad discretion in divorce matters, and appellate courts are reluctant to limit that discretion.
The two issues that make divorce complicated are what can be called “Hurdle Major” and “Hurdle Minor.” Hurdle Major is the raw, searing emotional content of nearly every issue presented in divorce. In all but the rarest of divorces, this emotional intensity – oft-changing feelings of love, regret, guilt, tenderness, euphoria, anger, betrayal, relief, depression, bitterness, abandonment, hatred, freedom, and fear — pops up at nearly every turn, stealing the focus from the legal issues that must be decided, and poisoning the kind of rational examination that would move the divorcing spouses toward a mutually acceptable resolution.
“Hurdle Minor” is Uncle Sam – the tax principles that color nearly every divorce settlement. Tax is particularly important – and sensitive — when one of the spouses has an income that is materially higher than the other. It is also important when they have owned a house or houses together that have increased in value, or for that matter if they have ever owned any property that has increased in value.