If you and your spouse have decided to seek a divorce and can come to an agreement on all issues related to ending your marriage, then getting a divorce in Alabama is a fairly straightforward process. An uncontested divorce is the preferred way to go, if possible.
Before you get to the point of filing the paperwork, however, you’ll need to consider and work through all the financial and legal issues that must be resolved. You’ll need to understand what terms are non-negotiable for you. An experienced divorce attorney can provide guidance about what Alabama family law permits and help you avoid unnecessary conflict. It’s best for each spouse to have an experienced family law attorney to guide them through the process.
An experienced divorce lawyer can help you:
- Protect your legal rights.
- Protect your children’s rights and ensure they are set for the best possible future.
- Reach an equitable distribution of assets.
- Help you make decisions based on what is fair, rather than on sentiment or emotions.
Attorney Leigh Daniel has more than 20 years of experience handling divorce and family law cases. She is committed to helping families in Huntsville and throughout Northern Alabama navigate divorce and other family law issues as efficiently as possible. The compassionate Huntsville divorce attorneys at Leigh Daniel Family Law work hard to help clients achieve their goals in a divorce and make a positive change in their lives.
Preparing for a Divorce in Alabama
An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses have agreed to proceed with the divorce process and have come to an agreement on all financial matters. Certain issues may require difficult negotiations to resolve.
A contested divorce occurs when one party opposes ending the marriage or the couple is unable to agree on one or more issues that must be settled before the divorce can take place.
Regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, the spouse seeking the divorce must complete certain forms and file them with the court in the county where one or both spouses live. For example, a Huntsville resident could file in Madison County Circuit Court.
The required forms are available at the local Clerk of Court’s office or through a divorce attorney and include:
- Complaint (if there are no minor children and no assets or debts for the court to divide, you can use form PS-08)
- The marital settlement agreement (if divorce is uncontested), signed by both parties
- Acceptance and Waiver of Service
- Notarized testimony of Plaintiff (if there are no minor children and no assets or debts for the court to divide, you can use form PS-09)
- Affidavit of Residency (declaration that you meet Alabama’s residency requirements)
- Certificate of Divorce (vital statistics record)
If you have underage children, add:
- Child Support Information Sheet (form CS-47)
- Child Support Obligation Income Statement/Affidavit (both parties) form CS-41)
- Child Support Guidelines Form (form CS-42)
- Child Support Guidelines Notice of Compliance (form CS-43)
- Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support
If the idea of filling out these forms on your own sounds intimidating, then you should seek the help of a compassionate attorney who can guide you through the process and provide advice based on experience.
In an uncontested divorce, one spouse would:
1. Formally request a divorce from the state court. This requires filing a Complaint and completing a Summons.
2. Document the terms of your divorce. This is the settlement agreement.
3. Serve your spouse with divorce papers. If your spouse will sign an Acceptance and Waiver of Service acknowledging receipt of the papers, you can mail the signed forms to the court by regular mail. Otherwise, you may serve your spouse papers via:
- First-class mail, with acknowledgment
- Certified mail, return receipt requested
- Sheriff, constable, or private process server.
4. Submit proof of service to the court. The court must have the signed divorce papers or an official acknowledgment that the other spouse received divorce papers.
5. Complete additional divorce forms to be filed with the court.
- Vital Statistics Form
- Affidavit of Residency
- Testimony of Plaintiff
- Child support forms
Your divorce attorney can ensure that the forms are correct and complete when submitted.
Steps to Getting a Divorce in Alabama
First, you must be a resident of Alabama to seek divorce in the state. This requires that if the other marital partner — the one not filing the divorce — lives out-of-state, then the plaintiff (who is filing) must live in Alabama to file for divorce.
When you file your Complaint for Divorce paperwork, you must confirm that you or your spouse has been a resident of Alabama for at least six months and specify whether you are filing for divorce based on fault or no-fault grounds.
Alabama is a no-fault divorce state. The courts will grant a divorce without either spouse proving the other did anything wrong.
In a no-fault divorce, you must state to the court that:
- You and your spouse are incompatible. The court must be satisfied that there is a complete incompatibility of temperament that makes it so the spouses can’t live together anymore.
- Your marriage has broken down. The court must find an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and that attempts to reconcile are futile and not in the best interests of the parties.
If your spouse opposes the divorce or cannot be found to sign papers, you will need to present evidence that your spouse committed one or more acts that are grounds for a fault-based divorce in Alabama. These are:
- Abandonment. Available if one spouse has voluntarily left the other for the year prior to the divorce filing.
- Addiction. Available if a spouse has become addicted after marriage to alcohol, opium, morphine, cocaine, or a similar drug.
- Adultery. Either spouse can file for divorce if the other has been unfaithful.
- Crime against nature. This refers to “the crime against nature, whether with mankind or beast, either before or after marriage.”
- Failure of husband to support the wife. Available if the wife has lived in Alabama separate from and without support from the husband for the two years before the divorce was filed.
- Impotency. Either spouse can file for divorce if the other was impotent at the time of marriage.
- Imprisonment. Available if a spouse has been imprisoned in any state penitentiary for two years under a sentence of seven years or longer.
- Insanity. Available if a spouse has been confined in a mental hospital for a period of five successive years and is incurably insane.
- Pregnancy. A husband may divorce a wife who was pregnant at the time of the marriage without the husband’s knowledge and by another person.
- Violent behavior. Available if one spouse has committed actual violence on the other or acts in a way to cause the other to be afraid of violence.
When you or your spouse file the Complaint and Summons to initiate a divorce, the court must wait at least 30 days to hear the case. Afterward, if the divorce is uncontested, all that is necessary is for a judge to sign the Final Decree of Divorce. This could take 30 days or longer because of the usual caseload in Alabama family courts.
Procedures for a Contested Divorce
If one spouse objects to the divorce, he or she has 30 days to answer the Complaint. If they do not file an official response, the court may rule in the plaintiff’s favor by default, granting whatever was requested in the Complaint.
In a contested divorce, the spouses, through their attorneys, will likely agree at some point to negotiate the issues that must be settled between them. Otherwise, a judge will decide each issue.
Attorneys may file specific motions asking the court to direct or limit the other spouse’s actions until the divorce is finalized. For example, if you depend on your spouse’s income, you may request temporary spousal support.
When negotiations between the two spouses are not productive, mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can lead to an agreement that is then submitted for court approval.
In divorce mediation in Alabama, a neutral third party helps the spouses reach a settlement agreement. A mediator can help the spouses negotiate agreements relating to such issues as child support, child custody, division of property, and alimony. The mediator will usually listen to both parties and try to help find common ground. A mediator cannot force the spouses to accept a binding decision.
Once the judge has either received the divorcing couple’s settlement agreement or heard all evidence and arguments about unresolved issues, the court issues a Final Judgment of Divorce.
This is the divorce order, which dissolves the marriage and establishes the terms of divorce such requirements as child support, alimony payments, and visitation rights.
The final decree carries the weight of law. All parties must adhere to the court order or face the serious consequences of being held in contempt of court. If either ex-spouse has reason to appeal any aspect of the final decree, he or she must do so within 42 days of its issuance.
Get Help from an Experienced Divorce Attorney in Huntsville, AL
At Leigh Daniel Family Law, our compassionate divorce attorneys will listen to your needs, focus on your goals, and develop a legal strategy to pursue the desired outcome. We encourage you to ask questions so you understand how your decisions will affect your future and your children. Our legal team prides itself on answering client calls and emails within 24 hours.