Filing for divorce in Alabama can seem like an overwhelming process. For many, the divorce process can become emotionally and financially draining. At Bouloukos, Oglesby, & Mitchell, we recommend that couples who are having marital issues seek counseling and try to work out their issues. However, when divorce becomes inevitable, we urge Alabama residents to speak with skilled divorce attorneys. We offer a free initial consultation for clients who are interested in finding out how our law firm can help them through the divorce process.
Alabama Divorce Laws
Every state has requirements for two people to become married. Similarly, every state has its own unique legal requirements for divorce. In order to secure a divorce, individuals must meet Alabama’s divorce requirements. First, in order to file for divorce, an individual must have resided in Alabama for the last six months. Only one of the divorcing spouses needs to meet the residency requirements.
Is Alabama a No-Fault Divorce State?
Those seeking to get a divorce in Alabama can either seek a no-fault divorce or a divorce based on fault. The circumstances of the individual’s situation as well as his or her goals will influence which routes the individual will take. In Alabama, one spouse does not need to prove that the other spouse is at fault in order to file for a divorce. For those who seek a no-fault divorce, Alabama courts will recognize either “irretrievable breakdown” or “incompatibility of temperament” as the cause of the divorce.
The simplest way to end a marriage in Alabama is usually filing a petition for divorce that states that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In a no-fault divorce, courts only require the testimony of one of the spouses. For example, one spouse can give personal testimony as to why the marriage suffered an irretrievable breakdown. Even when one spouse does not want to get divorced, the other spouse can seek a divorce based on incompatibility of temperament.
The Benefits of a Fault Based Divorce in Alabama
Many of our clients wonder why anyone would file for fault-based divorce when a no-fault divorce option is available. When one spouse can prove that the other spouse is at fault for the divorce, the court will usually grant the spouse who is not at fault with a more favorable divorce settlement. In a fault-based divorce, the party petitioning for divorce asks the court to determine whether the other spouse caused the failure of the marriage. The party seeking a divorce must name one of the following standard grounds for divorce:
- Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
- Physical and incurable incapacitation at the time of the marriage
- Voluntary abandonment for a period of at least one year
- Imprisonment for two years with a prison sentence of at least seven years
- Commission of a crime against nature before or after the marriage
- Addiction to habitual drunkenness or habitual use of opium, cocaine, morphine, or another drug after the beginning of the marriage
- Hopeless and incurable insanity with confinement in a mental hospital for a period of at least five years
Currently, very few individuals seek a fault-based divorce. However, there are some benefits to doing so. When a judge makes a determination of who is at fault for the divorce, the decision can impact division of property and spousal maintenance. Those requesting a divorce must wait for 30 days after one party files the summons and complaint before the court will finalize the divorce.
What Happens if Your Spouse Does Not Agree to Divorce in Alabama?
Alabama recognizes no-fault divorces. However, petitioning for a no-fault divorce does not mean that the other spouse cannot contest the divorce. A contested divorce happens when one spouse does not agree to the divorce. One spouse may refuse to agree with the other spouse about spousal maintenance, child custody, or the divisions of property. Marriage is essentially a contract. Dissolving the contract of marriage requires the spouses to come to a mutual agreement on a variety of legal issues.
Many spouses who seek a divorce in Alabama hope to proceed with a hassle-free divorce process. However, even couples who intend to have a hassle-free divorce can end up in a litigious and difficult contested divorce. The divorce process can bring out disagreements over the separation of property and child custody. Going through a contested divorce can be incredibly stressful and strenuous.
The Process for Filing a Divorce in Alabama
The first step in receiving a divorce in Alabama is filing a complaint. The person filing for divorce is called the plaintiff. The plaintiff and his or her attorney will file a complaint that sets forth the reason for the divorce. The complaint is a legal document that asks the court to grant the plaintiff’s terms related to the following issues:
- Spousal support
- Division of property
- Child custody
- Child support
The complaint will state the reason for the divorce and establish whether the divorce is no-fault. If the plaintiff is seeking a fault-based divorce, the complaint should establish the justification for seeking a fault-based divorce. The plaintiff must deliver the complaint to his or her spouse by certified mail, through a process server, or by a representative of the sheriff’s department.
The spouse who did not file the complaint will have 30 days to respond to the complaint. If the spouse fails to respond to the complaint in time, the family law court will usually enter a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff. When the spouse answers the complaint and agrees to the terms, the judge will enter an order for a no-fault divorce. However, when the spouse does not agree to the terms and states as much in his or her answer, the divorce will become a contested divorce and proceed to the discovery phase.
Discovery and Negotiation in the Alabama Divorce Process
In a contested Alabama divorce, attorneys will conduct a thorough investigation. The investigation often includes securing important documents, gathering evidence, and taking depositions. Attorneys may need to file depositions on behalf of their clients to obtain information. When a family law judge has ruled on all motions, the parties will begin negotiating the divorce settlement. A family court judge may request that the spouses work with an independent mediator appointed by the court.
When the parties agree on a revised divorce settlement, the judge may approve the settlement and finalize it. If not, a divorce trial will begin. Divorce trials happen when the parties cannot agree on a settlement. After a divorce trial, the judge will rule on any issues related to the divorce that remain in dispute. Contested divorces can take a year or more, depending on the complexity of the issues involved in the divorce. When Alabama judges issue unfavorable divorce settlements, parties have a right to appeal the judge’s ruling within 42 days of the ruling.
Birmingham Divorce Lawyers
Alabama residents who are facing a divorce are not alone. It is normal to feel emotional stress and a sense of being overwhelmed while going through a divorce. At Bouloukos, Oglesby, & Mitchell, our compassionate attorneys will listen intently to your background and your goals. We will then develop a strategy for your divorce that works in your best interest. We understand that child custody issues are particularly important to parents going through a divorce. That is why we fight so hard on behalf of our clients and the interests of their kids. Contact our Birmingham divorce law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.