Here is what you need to know about the entire Alabama contested divorce process and how it’s handled from start to finish.
What’s Considered a Contested Divorce in Alabama?
A contested divorce in Alabama occurs when a married couple cannot agree on the terms of their divorce – or on the divorce itself. During this contested divorce process, certain procedures must be followed before a final decree of divorce will be issued by a judge.
The opposite of a contested divorce is an uncontested divorce, in which both parties generally agree to the divorce, and disputes are resolved without involving the courts.
The Key Steps of the Alabama Contested Divorce Process
Below you’ll find the basic steps of the contested divorce process in Alabama.
Please note that this is high-level information and does not necessarily encompass all of the steps required in any particular divorce case.
Meeting Alabama’s Requirements For Divorce
All contested (and uncontested divorces, for that matter) must meet Alabama’s state requirements before a court will acknowledge the jurisdiction of the case.
What are those requirements?
- At least one of the spouses must have been a resident of Alabama for at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the divorce petition.
- The petition must be filed in the county in which the defendant resides or where the couple lived when the separation occurred. If the defendant is not a resident of Alabama, the divorce petition must be filed in the county where the plaintiff lives.
A well-trained Huntsville, Alabama divorce attorney will be able to advise clients as to the compliance of the state requirements to their cases.
Filing The Necessary Documents With The Court
When one spouse decides to file a petition for divorce, he or she must meet Alabama’s residency and jurisdictional requirements AND include specific information in the document.
The content of the complaint about divorce should include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Name, age, and residency of both parties,
- Marriage date and separation date of the parties,
- Names of minor children and their birth dates,
- Grounds for divorce, and
- Acknowledgment that the parties have assets and debts for division. The petition should also ask the court to take jurisdiction of the case and provide the relief asked for by the plaintiff.
A competent Huntsville divorce attorney will professionally compose the petition and file it with the court. As we have stated, the Alabama contested divorce process isn’t easy – so hiring an attorney is the key to success.
Serving The Other Party
Once a divorce complaint is filed, a copy of the document must be “served” on the defendant (spouse). This delivery is commonly referred to as “service of process.”
A spouse can be served by several methods:
- Through a personal service by a special process server who will personally deliver a copy of the complaint to the spouse
- Through certified mail sent by the court clerk or an attorney
- By a county sheriff or deputy
- Through publication in a local newspaper. Once the other party has been served, he or she has thirty (30) days to answer
Completing Negotiations, Discovery & Court Hearings
After a divorce complaint is filed, the parties, at any time, can resolve the issues of their Alabama contested divorce in several ways:
- The parties can come to a harmonious agreement between themselves or between themselves and their attorneys at any time.
- The parties can allow their attorneys to complete discovery in the case—which usually includes interrogatories and requests for the production of documents to each party so the attorneys can review and evaluate the assets and debts of each spouse. Discovery also includes the subpoenaing of witnesses and documents for trial. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the case will proceed to court where a judge will rule on the divorce issues during a bench trial.
The Alabama contested divorce process can be complex, and requires much time from the beginning when the divorce complaint is filed, through the mediation/settlement/discovery stages, and finally to the trial, if needed.
An experienced Alabama divorce lawyer can assist you with the challenging task of successfully completing a contested divorce in an Alabama court.