Individuals who are involved in divorce and have professional degrees often wonder about the value that a court of law will assign to these degrees. The significance of the degree differs based upon whether a court is deciding issues like property division, alimony, or child support.
When faced with a divorce, individuals with a professional degree often turn to the expertise of a seasoned divorce attorney who is well versed in the various issues that arise during a divorce. Other times, individuals rely on the services of an experienced divorce attorney because the spouse sacrificed so that the other spouse could obtain a professional degree.
Courts often have a difficult time determining how to value a degree, which would require determining what the market would contain for the individual with the degree. In order to determine the worth of a degree, courts must also decide what the difference is between what a person would earn without the degree versus what the person earned with the degree.
To decide the worth of a degree, courts in Alabama often compare current occupations, vocational skills, employability, and future opportunities to earn income and acquire property. Special note should be made that while a professional degree is not tangible property that can be easily divided, professional practices or other types of business involvement are subject to a more precise division.
Often the spouse who does not hold the professional degree has significantly supported the other spouse in obtaining the degree. As an equitable distribution state, Alabama considers the sacrifices a spouse made towards a degree when the degree was obtained during the course of a marriage.
Some of the various ways that the state of Alabama considers the worth of professional degrees when awarding property includes: awarding a spouse without the degree a higher percentage of marital property or awarding a higher amount of spousal maintenance to the spouse without the degree.
Enhanced earning capacity as a result of a professional degree creates a greater ability in one spouse to provide higher support payments. In other situations, the court might award the spouse with the degree a higher percentage of marital debt.
A debt incurred in obtaining a professional degree might be shared by both spouses. If a degree is not considered marital property, the debt in obtaining that degree will also likely be considered nonmarital property. As a result of this debt, married couples should be aware of the potential liabilities that can also result from obtaining a professional degree.
Understanding the value of a professional degree is an essential part of crafting a strong divorce strategy. A knowledgeable attorney knows how to respond to these types of issues in the best possible manner so that a divorce can resolve in the best possible manner.
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