What is Divorce Mediation?
In the process of divorce mediation, a neutral third party is used as a facilitator for communication between the two individuals seeking a divorce. The mediator, who does not work for either one individual, will assist the divorcing couple in determining how everything is to be divided and distributed along with the needs and expectations of responsibilities regarding any children involved. This might include custody, child support, and visitation rights. Other issues that may be dealt with during mediation can include retirement and taxes.
Mediation is a flexible and private process as opposed to court litigation. Because divorces that are made in court are public record, anyone can sit in and listen in on the details. Many divorcing couples choose to undergo mediation rather than litigation for the sake of remaining private and civilised. Decisions can be easy to reach or they may take some time until a fair and reasonable deal is made. Because the mediator is a neutral third party they will ensure that the couple remains on track with the process.
Mediation will help establish communication and keep relations workable for those who are required to remain in contact with one another after the divorce is finalized. The process is entirely voluntary and can last as long as you want it to. The schedule is also completely up to you and you may meet weekly, biweekly, or monthly. The typical length, depending on the difficulty of the divorce, can last anywhere between 4-10 sessions.
What is an Annulment?
The process of annulment is often misunderstood because of a misportrayal from popular culture and the media. While divorce and annulment both make a claim to the status of a marriage, they do so in very opposite ways. A divorce validates the status of a marriage, meaning it has existed but simply ended, whereas an annulment lays claim to the fact the marriage was never valid to begin with and therefore never existed in the eyes of the state and court. Achieving an annulment can be tricky because substantial amount of proof is required on the individual requesting one. The process of annulment can be rather tricky and it is strongly recommended to seek advice and guidance from a legal professional. They will help you determine the correct forms to fill out and the best evidence to strengthen your case.
The grounds for an annulment in Alabama can include fraud that goes to “the essence of a marriage” (meaning the heart of a marriage). For example, if a spouse does not disclose to their partner an intent to withhold sexual relations from the marriage, or even a desire live separately, this can be interpreted as fraud because sexual intimacy and living together are central to the compatibility of a marriage. Other grounds include underage spouses, coercion (meaning forced while under duress), or should a spouse conceal a sexually transmitted disease from their partner. Other issues such as misrepresentation of wealth, education, social status, or even fertility are not grounds for an annulment by the Alabama State Supreme Court.
Because an annulment defines a marriage as never having existed many often wonder how this might affect any children involved. Should a marriage be annulled, any children involved technically become illegitimate; however, state laws in Alabama grant illegitimate children the same legal rights as other children from legitimate marriages. This can include visitation rights with either parent (if in the child’s best interest) or child support. If the two spouses had the child during the marriage or 300 days after the annulment, there is a “presumption of paternity,” which is a strong legal presumption that the husband is the biological father of the child. The father may contest this, but he must provide strong and convincing evidence in order to do so, which can be quite difficult if there is a presumption of paternity. Because of this legal assumption it can be extremely difficult to request a paternity test.
Should a marriage be annulled it is best to understand what will not happen as a result of this. While child support (if necessary) can be granted the Alabama court system cannot grant permanent alimony (spousal support) to either party. The obvious reason for this is simply because the marriage is no longer considered valid and therefore the question of spousal support can no longer be legally raised. However, the judge may grant temporary alimony to the poorer spouse, if deemed necessary, so that they may continue litigation and pay attorney fees. The issue of property division is somewhat questionable in most Alabama courts, but some courts can at least grant a partial division. However, this view is not binding among the courts and because the marriage is viewed as never having existed, then there is technically no joint property to divide.