Divorces in Alabama trended downward from 1990 to 2021. There were 6.1 divorces for every 1,000 inhabitants in the state, but that has gone down to 3.6 for every 1,000 as of late. This research lumps together divorces with annulments, legal separations, and filed petitions. The number might be even lower if only divorces were included. This will exclude cases where the marriage was never valid (annulled) or where the marriage is legal but the couple can live apart (legally separated).
Is Alabama a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?
Yes, Alabama is a no-fault jurisdiction when it comes to divorce. The reason for no-fault divorce may be as simple as incompatibility, and the court may grant the petition. This does not preclude the couple from resorting to other legal grounds for divorce, such as:
Concealment of premarital pregnancy or physical problems
In Alabama, fault is not required to end a marriage. However, it can impact court decisions regarding child custody or support.
How to File for Divorce in Alabama
Divorce proceedings in Alabama vary based on whether or not the dissolution is contested or uncontested. The second option is simpler because there are no arguments or disagreements. However, it may not work if the couple has a bad relationship or if there are unresolved issues and assets.
Moreover, at least one spouse must have resided in Alabama for at least six months. If both spouses are residents of the state, the six-month residency requirement is no longer imposed.
Documents Needed to File for a Divorce Without Minor Children
An uncontested divorce involves submitting divorce papers to the courts, including all agreements made by the couple about ending their marriage. Once approved, the divorce will be official. Each spouse must receive a copy of the document for legal reasons. If not, it could cause a problem and stop the whole process.
At its most basic, a summons has to be filed with the court, covering jurisdictional matters like the names and addresses of the parties. The summons is how the court formally obtains power over litigants. Different city courts will also have their own requirements, but Alabama generally requires:
A divorce complaint that names the grounds for a divorce
Certificate of divorce with preliminary information about the spouses
Answer and waiver of service to remove the need for process servers to deliver court papers
Divorce settlement agreement covering the property of the spouses
Affidavit of testimony laying out each spouse’s recollection of the facts
The final judgment of divorce, which the judge will sign after examining all the paperwork
For contested divorces, the only documents needed are the divorce complaint, the certificate of divorce, and the summons. This is because all the other issues will be litigated in court.
Documents Needed to File for a Divorce with Minor Children
If the Alabama divorce is uncontested and there are minor children involved, the parties need to submit a custody arrangement proposal. These are matched with the following papers:
Child support worksheet
Child support income affidavit
Child support guidelines: notice of compliance
Income withholding order
Parents with young children often face custody, support, and relocation issues when they get divorced. These additions aim to address these specific concerns.
If the divorce is contested, the custody affidavit has to be submitted to the court.
Steps in the Alabama Divorce Process
In general, applying for a divorce in Alabama begins with filing the divorce forms. This is performed in a court with jurisdiction over one’s county. Given the difficulties of the process, it is advisable to get an Alabama divorce lawyer at this stage.
Appearances in court follow next, starting with a preliminary process called discovery. Here, the parties will lay all their proverbial cards on the table and disclose any income, assets, and pieces of evidence necessary for the upcoming court processes. The main reason is to avoid unexpected events during the legal process. It also allows the parties to know their position before the trial starts.
The trial proper is the next step, and the court will examine each issue to be resolved, from the division of assets and liabilities to the custody and care of the children. This is where the biggest advantage of an uncontested process lies. There are essentially no issues to iron out, and this step is far more streamlined, occurring only if there are gaps in the spouses’ settlement.
Mediation may occur instead of trial, and the couple will resolve their disputes out-of-court with the help of a neutral third party called a mediator. The outcome of mediation may itself be the settlement for an uncontested divorce, which, in turn, will be submitted to the court for the latter’s approval.
If all issues are resolved within 30 days, the court may finalize the divorce. Expect this period to be longer if there are a lot of issues or points of disagreement. The release of the court’s decision does not mean that post-divorce remedies are unavailable. There could be adjustments made as to alimony and child support matters, especially when the economic and social standings of the ex-spouses change.
How Property Is Divided in an Alabama Divorce
The division of properties in an Alabama divorce may cover everything the spouses own, tangible and intangible. Assets from interests in stock to real estate, businesses, and vehicles are up for division.
The state’s courts will divide the marital assets in an equitable (and not equal) manner. It is an equitable division jurisdiction as opposed to a community property one, and numerous factors are considered when splitting up the assets. Property division is practically never a 50-50 split. The judiciary will take note of:
The individual needs of each spouse
The length of the marital union
The contribution of each partner to the education and improved earning ability of the other
Alternate sources of income
Expected standard of living based on the marriage
The tax ramifications of the distribution
The status of either individual as a homemaker or wage earner
The value and classification of the property
If either party is at fault
The living arrangements of the offspring
Each partner’s age and health.
The properties owned before marriage are considered separate property and are not up for division. The same goes for anything inherited or acquired after a legal separation. However, things change when separate assets are intermingled with marital ones or uses, like when a spouse inherits a home that is used later for both partners’ rental businesses. At that point, what is separate becomes subject to division.
Once the court has determined which assets can be distributed, it decides how to distribute each before releasing its decree. The spouses are also allowed to come up with their own division if they are able to reach an agreement.
Alabama Divorce FAQs
Legal Resources on Getting a Divorce in Alabama
The following are some helpful resources that the residents of Alabama can use when finding out more about or contemplating divorce.
Alabama State Bar
The Alabama State Bar maintains pro-bono and lawyer referral services for anyone contemplating a divorce. It also has helpful, easily digestible resources that teach citizens about the basics of divorce law.
Alabama Divorce and Family Lawyers
This private law practice has a very informative section on divorce law that is even more digestible than the state bar association’s. It is no substitute for legal advice from an attorney, but it is a decent first step.
The AOC is the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts’ collection of online forms for divorce. There are do-it-yourself options for those who do not wish to hire a lawyer.
AlabamaLegalHelp.Org offers legal assistance to the needy residents of the state who have family law and divorce concerns. The firm also covers common-law unions, housing, domestic violence, and elder law matters.
Legal Services Alabama
Legal Services Alabama serves low-income individuals and families, and it covers divorces that are uncontested or that have a domestic violence component. The office also takes on custody issues and housing concerns.
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