Is a House Owned Before Marriage Considered Marital Property in Alabama?


Understanding Property Division for Divorces in Alabama

If you are going through a divorce in Alabama, we understand you have a lot of decisions to make, and you probably have many questions, too. Those questions can be even more complicated for couples who own property together. After all, when you go through a divorce, you are splitting much more than just your lives. Many couples acquire and share valuable assets throughout their marriages, and when divorce occurs, a solid plan is necessary to divide these assets.

Is Alabama a Common Law Property State?

Alabama is an equitable distribution state, not a community property state. Meaning property and debts are divided fairly and honestly but not necessarily equally. If a couple cannot agree on how the property should be divided, the court will equitably divide the property. Usually, property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property and would be divided based on equitable distribution. Suppose a house was purchased by one person before the marriage or inherited by only one spouse during the marriage. In that case, it will usually be considered separate property.

What Is Considered Marital Property in Alabama?

Under the equitable distribution rules in Alabama, a couple’s debts and assets are not necessarily divided between the pair equally. The Alabama courts' method requires a detailed evaluation of the couple’s situation. Some of the details that the courts consider when it comes to property division include:

  • The monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage by each couple
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s expected ability to earn a living after the marriage
  • Each spouse’s expected responsibilities regarding any children had during the marriage

When you divorce in Alabama, your assets are considered separate property or marital property. Marital property generally means all of the property acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage. In contrast, separate property means any property the spouses acquired separately before the marriage or after separation. In some cases, separate property can become marital property. This is due to specific actions that can “transmute” the property into marital or mixed property.

For example, transmutation can happen when one party owns real property before the marriage and transfers the title to the property into the joint names. Commingling can also turn separate property into marital property. This can occur when one spouse uses marital funds to improve, maintain, or contribute to separate property. Commingling, along with other financial decisions that bring assets together, can make asset division a bit more complicated.

We have been practicing family law at Shaw Family Law, L.L.C. since 1987. We closely collaborate with each client to help them sort out marital assets. If you are going through a divorce, relying on skilled lawyers like the team at Shaw Family Law, L.L.C. can make the process simpler, more comprehensive and bring you one step closer to beginning your next chapter.

If you need legal assistance dividing assets during a divorce, or need legal support through other family law matters, call Shaw Family, L.L.C. at (205) 259-7650 or contact us online.