How Much Is a Divorce in Huntsville Alabama?

How much is a divorce in Huntsville Alabama? Money and Gavel on the tableWhen you file for divorce in Huntsville, Alabama, you should expect to pay $324 in court filing fees. You can make this payment with cash, money order, or cashier’s check. Serving a divorce complaint to your spouse costs an additional $20 through the local sheriff, or $7.33 if you use certified mail. We prefer to use a private process server so we can determine when your opposing party is served and we can do this quicker than doing through the Sheriff or certified mail. However, remember that filing for divorce is only the first step of the divorce process. Other factors can influence how much a divorce in Huntsville, Alabama will cost. For example, if you can agree to all divorce terms with your spouse, the subsequent legal steps should be shorter and come with fewer costs. However, if you do not agree with your spouse on various legal matters related to the divorce, the process could take longer—and that often means higher costs.

Factors That Can Affect the Cost of a Divorce Process

A divorce begins when one spouse files a divorce complaint. The defendant must then determine if they agree to the divorce and the legal terms outlined by the other spouse. Legal matters involved in a divorce may include:

  • Child custody – Where your children will live and who has a legal right to make important decisions for them
  • Child support – The amount one spouse must pay the other to share the costs of raising children after the divorce
  • Property division – How your assets, debt, and physical property get divided between the two spouses
  • Alimony – Funds that one spouse pays the other if they could struggle to maintain financial standing after the divorce

Uncontested Divorce vs. Contested Divorce

When a couple can agree on all legal matters involved in the divorce without going to court, they have an uncontested divorce. Generally speaking, the sooner you and your spouse can agree to the legal terms of the divorce, the less your divorce will cost. A contested divorce refers to situations where couples dispute one or more legal terms of the divorce. For instance, if one spouse believes they have a right to sole custody of the children and the other spouse disagrees, this is a contested divorce. Contested divorces often require intervention by the court. The longer it takes to resolve disputes before a judge, the higher the fees will likely be. Divorce can prove an emotionally charged and challenging process for some couples. After all, you must disentangle all aspects of your life with your partner. Unfortunately, this process can come with many hurdles. A Huntsville, AL divorce lawyer can help you understand what to expect during the divorce process and offer solutions to help resolve disputes as efficiently as possible.

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Uncontested Divorce in Alabama

You can seek an uncontested divorce in Alabama through multiple avenues, including:

  • An agreement arranged directly between the spouses
  • A lawyer-facilitated agreement
  • Mediation

Of course, arranging a divorce agreement directly with your partner offers the most cost-effective approach. In addition to filing your divorce complaint, you and your spouse must file a divorce settlement agreement and file it with your county clerk. You will also need to file other crucial forms to finalize your divorce. Your divorce lawyer can file all of this paperwork correctly, ensuring you don’t make mistakes that delay your ability to move forward with your life. At the earliest, you can secure a divorce 30 days after your filing date. Alabama law requires a 30-day waiting period before any court will finalize a divorce.

Should I Hire a Lawyer in an Uncontested Divorce?

Because divorce paperwork can be complicated, even in an uncontested divorce, you may want to work with a lawyer. An attorney can:

  • Ensure that you have all the correct paperwork completed
  • Review the paperwork to confirm that your divorce agreement is fair
  • Facilitate any discussions with your spouse about the divorce terms

If your uncontested divorce involves children, you could face even more complex paperwork. A lawyer can help you file this paperwork accurately and work to ensure the best result for you and your children.

The Cost of an Uncontested Divorce

Most divorce attorneys charge either a flat fee or an hourly rate. The cost of an attorney’s help also varies based on the anticipated complexity of the case and the law firm’s experience. Even with an uncontested divorce, an attorney may still charge more if you have a high-asset divorce or other factors complicate the remaining divorce process. You may wonder if it’s worth paying for an attorney in an uncontested divorce. However, remember that the cost of making any mistakes in a do-it-yourself divorce can be substantial. A divorce lawyer can complete your paperwork correctly and ensure it reflects a fair agreement. Also, if you face pressure from your spouse or do not fully understand what you are signing, a lawyer’s help can be crucial.

Mediation and Uncontested Divorces

Mediation can also help couples resolve their divorces out of court. Many couples find that a mediator offers a neutral perspective in resolving divorce disputes. However, the mediator’s recommendation is not legally binding like a judge’s order. The mediator will charge an hourly rate. According to the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution (ACDR), mediators often charge between $150 and $350 per hour. Other mediators may charge by the session. Couples often split the cost of mediation. However, you can also raise this issue during mediation and ask your spouse to pay for mediation costs.

Contested Divorce in Alabama

Sometimes, a couple cannot agree on the legal matters involved in a divorce, and they must go to court to resolve these disputes before a Circuit Court judge. This can happen when:

  • Mediation proves unsuccessful
  • One spouse disputes the legal grounds of the divorce from the outset, especially in a fault-based divorce
  • One spouse refuses to accept the divorce itself
  • The spouses cannot agree to custody, property division, alimony, or other matters

When Contested Divorces Go to Court

When a divorce goes to court, the judge will hear both sides of the case and then make determinations regarding child custody, property division, alimony, and other crucial legal matters. Once the judge makes their determination and issues an order, the couple cannot dispute the court’s decision—another reason why the uncontested divorce process can be beneficial. Going to trial requires preparing a great deal of evidence to present before the judge, such as financial documents, witness statements, and expert witness testimony. If you hire a lawyer, they can present your evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and advocate for you during the trial. The court process can take months or more. Certain factors can slow down the court process, such as when one or both spouses fails to present important financial documents. If you have a divorce lawyer, they can help keep the court process as efficient as possible and strategize ways to keep court costs down.

Fault-Based Divorces

If you seek a fault-based divorce, you may need to go to court. In a fault-based divorce, the spouse who filed for divorce will need to show evidence of the other party’s fault. For example, if the plaintiff says the defendant’s drug abuse destroyed the marriage, they must show evidence of the abuse. Because fault-based divorces entail presenting evidence and demonstrating fault, they usually take more time in court than no-fault divorces. However, you may derive financial benefits if you can prove that your partner was at fault. You can discuss the pros and cons of a fault-based divorce with your lawyer. Regarding the example listed above, if you successfully show that your partner’s drug abuse caused your marriage to fail, the court may make certain decisions in your favor. For instance, they may determine that you should receive sole custody if your partner cannot adequately provide childcare. If your children live with you full-time, they may award you with the family home.

Requesting a Divorce By Default

In some situations, a spouse does not respond to the initial divorce complaint. After the filing spouse serves the complaint, the defendant has 30 days to respond per Alabama law. Whether their silence indicates that they don’t want the divorce or they don’t want to begin the legal process, you still have options to move forward. You can request a divorce by default from the court. If your spouse still doesn’t respond to notice of a default divorce, your case will proceed before a judge. There, the court will determine child custody, property division, and other relevant legal matters of the divorce. In some situations, the plaintiff can request that the non-responding spouse pay court costs and other fees involved in this process.

Other Costs and Financial Matters Related to Divorce

A divorce comes with other costs beyond those connected to the divorce process. After all, getting a divorce often changes a person’s financial life in many ways. Prepare for these changes. The financial consequences of divorce may include:

Child Support

If you have children in the marriage, you or your spouse may need to make child support payments. Alabama guidelines determine which parent should contribute child support and how much they owe. Both parents’ income, time spent with the children through a custody order, the number of children, and the costs of the children’s care all factor into child support determinations. Whether you seek child support payments or anticipate that you may need to pay your spouse, an attorney can calculate fair payments.

Alimony

frustrated couple going through a divorceOne spouse may also need to make alimony payments to the other spouse during and/or after the divorce finalizes. Alimony helps a spouse who may face financial strain during the separation or immediately following the divorce. If the other spouse can make alimony payments without financial hardship, the court may order them to do so. However, remember that most alimony payments don’t last forever—generally, they can extend for up to five years after the divorce under Alabama law. Only in certain situations, such as a long-term marriage or when a spouse has a disability, can alimony last more than five years. Again, an attorney can help you ensure fair alimony payments.

Budgeting for Life After a Divorce

Divorce can bring many positive changes for both spouses, including moving forward from an unhealthy relationship. However, both spouses should consider the long-term financial changes that will follow a divorce. If you depend on a dual income to pay for certain life necessities, such as a mortgage or rent, be sure to plan for this financially. Also, if you want to try to keep the family home after a divorce, consider how your future anticipated income could support your mortgage. As mentioned above, if you receive temporary or rehabilitative alimony, these payments may not last indefinitely. Prepare for when you will take over mortgage payments alone.

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How an Attorney Can Help You With an Alabama Divorce

Understanding the costs and financial implications of divorce can feel overwhelming—on top of the other emotional challenges that already come with divorce. A divorce attorney can assist you with every aspect of an Alabama divorce, including:

Ensuring the Fairest Possible Financial Outcome

The idea of splitting your physical property and other assets may seem daunting. However, Alabama is an equitable division state. You have a right to an equitable outcome when you divide your marital assets. An attorney can gather evidence to show:

  • What assets belong to you personally and that you should not split with other marital property
  • What assets you have a right to split with a spouse (such as a business you helped run or an investment property you shared)
  • That you should receive alimony or should pay minimal alimony payments
  • That you should receive child support or should pay minimum child support

Many law firms offer case evaluations to discuss your circumstances and tell you more about their services.

Reviewing Important Paperwork

Your attorney can advise you before you agree to any divorce settlement terms. If your spouse presents you with a divorce complaint, you can review these terms with your attorney before signing the papers.

Representing You in Mediation or Court

Whether you seek mediation in an uncontested divorce or need to go before a judge, an attorney can argue for your best interests and help ensure a fair divorce process.

Assisting You if a Spouse Hides Assets

An attorney can help with the financial complications that may arise during a divorce. For instance, you may suspect that your spouse has more assets to disclose beyond those listed in your divorce paperwork. A divorce attorney can investigate these matters.

How Long Does Divorce Take in Alabama?

How long does divorce take in Alabama?How long it takes to get a divorce in Alabama depends on several factors, including whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce. The more you and your spouse can agree on legal matters related to the divorce, the faster the process will likely go.

Generally speaking, an uncontested divorce can resolve as soon as 6-10 weeks after filing for the divorce. However, contested divorces can take several months or even a year. No matter how long your case takes, an experienced divorce lawyer can help you navigate the entire process and ensure that it goes as fairly and efficiently as possible. Let’s look at the question ‘How Long does divorce take in Alabama?’ a little more closely.

The Divorce Process Timeline in Alabama

If you’re considering divorce, here’s an overview of what you can expect from the process and the general timelines that accompany a divorce in Alabama.

File for Divorce

The process begins when you or your spouse file for a divorce in your county’s circuit court. You will need proof that you or your partner had residency status in Alabama for at least six months.

Filing for divorce involves paperwork known as a divorce complaint. In the complaint, you will cite legal grounds for the divorce, including no-fault or fault-based grounds. Additionally, you’ll include any terms of the divorce you want to submit to your spouse, such as how child custody will work and how you should divide your property.

Be sure to keep these deadlines in mind:

  • Once you file for divorce, you have four months to serve your spouse the divorce complaint.
  • You must wait at least 30 days after filing before finalizing your divorce, according to Alabama law.

Response to Divorce Complaint

Once your spouse receives the complaint, they have 30 days to respond with a document known as an answer. In their answer, they can choose to agree to your divorce terms, agree to some of the terms, or contest the divorce.

In some cases, your spouse may not reply to your complaint. If this happens, you still have options for moving forward. You can request a divorce by default, which involves the court making an order based on your divorce complaint’s terms. A court will not hear your spouse’s concerns in a default divorce.

Resolve Remaining Legal Matters

You and your spouse may find that you can agree to all legal matters of the divorce. For example, you may agree on child custody, child support, how to divide your property, and whether one spouse deserves alimony. If so, you’re in an ideal situation, and the rest of your divorce process may be relatively short.

If you fully agree with your spouse, you have an uncontested divorce. You can either sign the divorce agreement or hire an Alabama divorce attorney to review it. Even in an uncontested divorce, you may still have some remaining disagreements. Couples can often work out these issues through mediation.

In some cases, you might need to go to court and receive a judge’s order. Known as a contested divorce, cases that require court intervention generally entail a longer divorce timeline.

What Happens in an Uncontested Divorce in Alabama?

As mentioned above, an uncontested divorce is often relatively smoother—and faster—than a contested divorce. Since both parties agree to most of the divorce’s terms, little stands in the way of completing it.

However, that doesn’t mean that spouses in an uncontested divorce have nothing to work out.

Couples may still need some help negotiating the final terms of their divorce settlement, such as:

  • How they will divide property and assets
  • How they will arrange child custody and visitation
  • How much child support payments will be
  • How much alimony payments will be

Couples with no children, few assets, and shorter marriages may not even need to address these terms. However, some couples with longer marriages and children involved can work together amicably to determine what’s best for their children and personal finances.

The Process of Dividing Property

Dividing property entails determining which property belongs to each spouse separately and what constitutes marital property. Personal items may include inherited items, cherished heirlooms, personal art collections, and other belongings the spouse owned before the marriage.

Marital property includes most items acquired during the marriage—therefore, couples must determine how to divide these assets.

Marital property may include:

  • The family home
  • Bank accounts
  • Investments
  • Debt
  • A family business
  • Vehicles
  • Household items, such as furniture

It can take time for a couple to itemize all marital property, determine its value, and decide what an equitable division will be. They have to decide whether to sell certain items and divide the proceeds or find a way to split their possessions. Some couples work with an appraiser to determine the value of higher-priced items, which can lend transparency and fairness to the property division process.

When Children Are Involved

Determining what’s best for your children can be one of the most challenging aspects of divorce.

However, in an uncontested divorce, couples find they can agree on most matters related to child custody, including:

  • Physical custody – Whether the children will live with one parent or share time equally with both
  • Legal custody – How the parents will make legal decisions for the children, such as their education and healthcare needs

A divorcing couple with children must agree on both aspects of custody (physical and legal). If one parent receives sole physical custody, they must also arrange a visitation schedule for the other parent.

Additionally, they will need to agree to child support obligations. Often, one parent will pay the other to help care for the children’s essential needs. The state of Alabama has specific guidelines for how child support payments work. These guidelines consider how much income each parent makes, how many children need financial support, the cost of the children’s care, and other factors.

What Happens in a Contested Divorce?

As mentioned above, a contested divorce happens when a couple cannot agree on legal matters involved in the divorce, and they need to go to court to resolve their disputes.

Going to court can significantly increase the amount of time a divorce takes. Generally, a contested divorce could take between six months and one year—and some could take longer.

Depending on your case, you may need to participate in:

  • Mediation – Some judges may order a couple to go through mediation before proceeding to court. A neutral third party, typically a trained attorney, will try to help a couple navigate their disputes.
  • Court requests for documents – You will likely need to provide certain paperwork for the court, such as financial statements.
  • Depositions – You may need to give oral testimony with your and your spouse’s lawyers present in a process known as a deposition.
  • Interrogatories – This includes paperwork from the court that directs you to respond to certain questions related to the divorce.

Presenting Your Case to a Judge

If you cannot resolve challenging divorce issues through mediation and must go to court, you will need to present your case to a judge. Both you and your spouse can make your case through legal representatives. Your lawyer can show various forms of evidence, such as witness statements, expert testimony, and other documents.

After one spouse files the divorce complaint, the court could issue a trial date several months later. It can take several more months for the judge to decide and finalize the divorce.

Other Factors That Can Delay a Divorce

Seeking a judge’s help with your divorce process can set back your divorce timeline, but other factors can delay the time it takes to finalize a divorce:

The Discovery Process

Discovery refers to the phase when you share important documents in the divorce case, such as your financial records, debt information, appraisals, and other records related to assets. This process enables the couple to understand all assets that fall under the umbrella of marital property—and how to divide them fairly.

However, the discovery process can be lengthy, and you may face delays for several reasons. Some partners use discovery as a way to delay the divorce proceedings. Delays can also occur when one spouse doesn’t have a lawyer. They may not comply as readily with document requests when they do not have an attorney explaining the legal requirements of discovery.

A Spouse Doesn’t Want to Cooperate

Trying to work with an uncooperative spouse can frustrate you. When a spouse approaches the divorce antagonistically, they may try several delay tactics, such as filing excessive motions or document requests or telling the judge they need more time to prepare for hearings.

You Face Court Scheduling Issues

Sometimes, court calendar issues delay divorces. If there is a backlog of cases, you may need to wait longer to appear before a judge. Also, if you need to spend more time in court and have not worked out any disputes through mediation, this can also set back your timeline.

How to Help Ensure a Faster Divorce Process

Thinking about the issues that can slow down your divorce timeline may be overwhelming.

However, you can ensure a smoother, faster divorce process if you:

  • Prepare documents in advance – You can start preparing important divorce documents sooner rather than later. For instance, you can start an inventory of your personal and shared assets. Gather tax returns, income statements, real estate documents, and anything else that could prove crucial during discovery.
  • Strategize your goals for the divorce – Knowing what you want before you move into the divorce process can help you feel more prepared for the conversations to follow—and may also streamline the process. Strategize what you want and where you think you could compromise.
  • Work together with your spouse, if possible – As explained above, couples who can work together to resolve the divorce typically have a faster divorce process. However, working with your spouse doesn’t mean saying “yes” to everything the other party demands. You can get a lawyer’s help during negotiations or work with a mediator to determine equitable terms for both of you.
  • Understand your divorce options – Knowing your options can help you save time. For instance, determine if an uncontested divorce could work for you. A collaborative divorce, which uses both negotiation and mediation strategies to avoid court, may also be an option.
  • Get a legal case review: An Alabama divorce lawyer can tell you everything you need to know to start your divorce during a case evaluation. During this meeting, you can ask questions and determine if they’re the right firm to represent you.

How Working With a Lawyer Can Make the Divorce Process More Efficient

The emotions and major decisions involved in a divorce often feel overwhelming, especially when you face them all at once. Never go through a divorce process alone.

When you hire a divorce lawyer, you can rest assured that you have someone on your side advocating for your best interests. A lawyer can learn your story and strategize to seek your desired results in a divorce.

A lawyer can also:

  • Help you gather important documents for your case
  • Make sure that you have crucial divorce paperwork
  • Explain your rights and how Alabama divorce law applies to your case
  • Help you if the other side unnecessarily delays the case
  • Represent your side of the story during mediation or in court
  • Ensure a fair, equitable divorce process during property division, custody matters, and more
  • Offer a neutral perspective as you navigate the challenges of divorce
  • Take steps to ensure the most efficient divorce process possible

Know How Long Your Divorce Might Take

Contact a lawyer at Charlotte Christian Law to find out how long your Alabama divorce may take and what strategies can help secure your desired outcome faster. To start, get your case evaluation with our law firm today.

What happens to student loan debt after divorce?

During divorce proceedings, Alabama courts typically look at all debt accrued before and during the marriage. But how does Alabama handle student loan debt? Read Charlotte Christian Law’s blog to learn more about what happens to student loan debt after a divorce.

What is student loan debt?

While it may seem like a simple concept, let’s discuss what student loan debt looks like. When you take out a loan to cover the cost of your education, you have to pay back the money you borrowed and any additional interest that may have accrued.

Alabama’s federal student loan debt exceeds the national average, with $23.5 billion in debt. About 12.6% of Alabama residents owe student loan debt, which is 3 out of every 25 residents. 

Even though debt seems like a simple part of a divorce, it is sometimes a complex issue. Depending on when you took out the loans, if you helped your ex-spouse pay theirs back, and if you co-signed for them, student loan debt could become a significant challenge. There are many factors at play here that an experienced divorce attorney will understand and be able to provide you with the correct legal advice regarding your unique situation.

For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277

How does Alabama handle debt?

Alabama is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court divides property and debt fairly and equitably. Instead of a 50/50 split, the circuit court separates assets and liabilities to benefit both parties.

When deciding how to divide debt, the court will typically ask a few different questions. They may question when you took out the loans, how long your marriage was, what you used the loan for, or any other questions that affect debt division. 

Debt is likely the most significant liability that you and your former spouse will need to deal with, and it’s vital to decide early on what your plan is. You may benefit from speaking with an experienced family law attorney who can help you sort out your finances. 

What if you had student loan debt before marriage?

If you or your ex-partner took out student loans before getting married, they would not be divided up during the divorce. All debt you acquired before getting married will remain separate property. As separate property, neither of you will be responsible for the other’s debt.

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What if you took out student loans during marriage?

Debt accumulated during your marriage, including student loan debt, is considered marital debt. Since Alabama is an equitable distribution state, the courts will look at your case and decide the fairest way to separate that debt.

The courts will consider several questions when determining the best way to divide your marital debt. We’ve already touched on a few of them, but we’ll cover the details.

How was the money used?

Suppose your former partner took out a student loan to cover education expenses. In that case, the courts may decide that it is their responsibility. However, if you used the money to cover shared living expenses, it may be considered marital debt and divided appropriately.  

What role did your former partner play?

This question aims to determine how much assistance your ex-spouse provided while you were continuing your education. If your former partner took care of the children or drove you to class, they may have less liability for the debt. 

Is there equal earning power?

Earning power refers to the money that you earn. If you make more than your ex-partner, the court may place more of the financial burden on you. Courts consider earning power to ensure that you’re able to care for yourself and any dependents you may have. 

Did one of you co-sign on a student loan?

Some private loans require co-signers. If you co-signed for your ex-partner, you might continue to be held responsible for the debt, even after the divorce. However, you may benefit from refinancing it under their name or requesting a co-signer release.

Speak to a Professional

Student loan debt is complex, and it can be challenging to deal with during a divorce. The good news is that Alabama is an equitable distribution state and will consider your case on an individual level. 

An experienced, empathetic family law attorney can help you work through the process and ensure that you are taking the proper steps. Here at Charlotte Christian Law, we will help you give your family a better life. Getting a divorce can be daunting, but we will help you take the next step in building a better future. Connect with us online at charlottechristianlaw.com or at (256) 859-7277. Move to a brighter future with clarity and confidence.

Call or text (256) 859-7277 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form

Do I Have to Pay Child Support With Shared or Joint Custody?

Do I Have to Pay Child Support With Shared or Joint CustodyJoint custody refers to a child’s shared physical and/or legal custody after the parents separate or divorce. In such cases, parents share the daily responsibilities of raising the child(ren), including financial obligations. So, in short, the answer to this question is yes. Joint or shared custody doesn’t negate a child support obligation. Even if both parents share equal charges, one parent will usually still owe some child support. The only exception would be if both parents earn the same amount of money and spend the same amount of time with the kids. Child custody attorneys report that is an unlikely scenario.

When determining child support obligations, courts handle joint custody arrangements differently, and every state follows a different model for calculating support obligations. When choosing an agreement between parents, some parents maintain an oral agreement, which allows them to avoid paying child support when the child is not in a respective parent’s care. 

Additionally, some written agreements will specifically address when support is paid. However, many states do not allow the parent paying child support to stop spending when children are visiting or in their custody – that might be the case because of a child’s ongoing needs, such as extra-curricular activities, doctor’s payments, or housing arrangements. Those payments will still need to be paid even when the child is not with that parent.

Factors Considered in Determining Or Altering Support Obligations in Joint Custody

States generally consider four critical factors when determining child support and who pays it. 

  • The income of each parent
  • The custody arrangement (e.g., which parent has physical custody of the child(ren))
  • The financial and health care needs of the child
  • The number of children

If there is a joint custody agreement, the main factor determining who will pay child support is who makes more money. The parent with the highest income will pay the other parent the difference between their child support payment and the child support payment the other parent would be making.

Each state must decide its method of calculating these child support payments and maintain guidelines for child support award amounts. They may create a  list or schedule that entails a basic support obligation amount or a percentage of income on which the child support is based. One of three calculating methods is used in each state:

Income Shares Model

According to Ala. R. Jud. Admin. R. 32, Alabama uses the income shares model. This model is based on what a child would receive if the parents were still together in a single household. It combines the income of both parents first.

Then, the state will find the child’s financial support needs. This figure will be a combination of a predetermined amount that the state says a child requires, the child’s healthcare costs, and the cost of child care. If there are multiple children, the amount is adjusted for each child, per state laws.

Once the total support obligation is calculated, the percentage of each parent’s contribution to the total income is found. Finally, that percentage is multiplied by the total child support obligation to arrive at each parent’s child support amount.

Percentage of Income Model

The percentage of income model determines the child support payment based only on the non-custodial parent’s income. The rate of pay for child support can be found in a table created by the state. Six states use this model for child support calculations.

Melson Formula

This is a much more complicated, multi-step calculation method that combines the income shares and percentage of income models. Additionally, it considers the financial needs of each parent, as well as their standard of living. 

For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277

Lowering Child Support Payments

The court can determine child support establishment or modification at its discretion on a case-by-case basis. Generally, child support is modified if your financial situation changes or your circumstances change drastically. Some of the reasons a child support obligation may be limited include:

  • Your parenting or visitation time as a non-custodial parent is substantially more than the court’s usually approved. Therefore, if you spend more time with the kids, your child support as a non-custodial parent could be lowered because you are acting closer to the custodial parent.
  • Excessive transportation costs to visit the child
  • College education expenses incurred while the child is still a minor
  • There are assets or unearned income that the children are receiving, or the parent is receiving on behalf of the children. This money could be an inheritance from a grandparent, for instance.
  • Child care costs due to a parent working or looking for work
  • Child care costs associated with a parent receiving training or education to help them secure employment or enhance their earning potential if it benefits the child down the line

The Ability of Each Parent to Maintain Separate Housing For The Child

Extraordinary financial expenses that arise due to the joint custody arrangement (i.e., additional child care expenses, clothing expenses, or travel expenses)

There are several reasons why a parent should continue to provide child support in joint custody arrangements. Still, most importantly, child support payments generally give a more effortless adjustment for children. These payments can positively affect a child’s well-being, performance in school, and overall social adjustment.

Parents should try to agree on child support in joint custody arrangements. Parents can develop a parenting plan to track expenses and maintain open communication if/when more money is necessary. If parents cannot effectively communicate, the court can determine appropriate child support payments in joint custody arrangements.

Call Charlotte Christian Law to Learn More About Child Support

Divorce is hard on all parties involved but can be especially difficult for the children of the individuals getting divorced. Our priority at Charlotte Christian Law is to provide you with the best support possible and ensure that every aspect of your divorce is considered and handled with the utmost care and respect, including your family. 

If you need to obtain a divorce in the state of Alabama, please get in touch with us – our lawyers are here for you. Give us a call at (256) 859-7277 today!

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Calculating Child Support In Alabama: Facts & Figures

Calculating child support in Alabama with a calculatorPeople are familiar with child support and the obligation of both parents to contribute to the support of their child or children. Child custody attorneys understand that the end goal of child support is to benefit the children. What ordinary people do not realize is that child support was designed toward the end of giving children, not the custodial parent, a standard of living equal to or better than their parents and to prevent any child from becoming a public charge. In Alabama, the court applies a formula to make the support determination, sometimes referred to as “formulaic” child support or “guidelines” child support.

Charlotte Christian Law provides strong advocacy for parents seeking an award of fair and proper child support, which we consider to be both parents. Whether for an initial support order, modification of an existing support order, enforcement of an Alabama support order, or an out-of-state support order, we can be of assistance. We also advocate for parents in support matters requiring a preliminary paternity determination. Throughout the State of Alabama, our family attorneys will develop the right strategy to ensure that your children receive the financial support they deserve, that is fair to both parents and the circumstances of the case.

For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277

Alabama Child Support Formula

In Alabama, child support is calculated according to Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. To calculate the value of the support, the state provides a formula based on each spouse’s income, childcare costs, and insurance premiums. Income, as defined in the rule, includes income from any source, such as:

  • Salaries and wages
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Dividends
  • Severance pay and pensions
  • Interest
  • Trust income
  • Annuities and capital gains
  • Social Security benefits
  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Unemployment insurance benefits
  • Disability insurance and benefits
  • Gifts and prizes
  • Pre-existing periodic alimony

There are factors that should not be used when calculating child support:

Calculating Child Support In Alabama For The Unemployed

If a parent is unemployed or under-employed without a legitimate basis, or for the purpose of avoiding child

support obligations, the court will calculate that parent’s income at their income-earning capacity. This goes both ways. The court will not tolerate unemployment or under-employment for either parent in the face of their respective obligations to support their child or any effort to place more burden on the other parent by intentional reduction of income.

The next step is to adjust the gross income that has been calculated, noting that gross income is not reduced by any income tax withholdings. The gross income calculation of each parent is reduced by the following:

  • Pre-existing child support obligations not involved in this calculation
  • Pre-existing alimony obligations being paid out
  • There is no consideration of debt or other financial obligations of either parent

Add together the adjusted gross monthly income of each parent, called combined parental income, and determine the percentage of that amount attributable to each parent. For example, the combined parental income is $5,000, $3,000 from the father, and $2,000 from the mother. The percentage of the $5,000 attributed to each parent is 60% to the father, 40% to the mother, let’s call that the “pro-rata” share of each parent.

To calculate the basic support obligation, the state provides a formula based on the combined parental income, to which the additional costs of childcare and insurance premiums for the child. When all of these numbers are added together, each parent’s pro-rata share is attributed to them for payment, being the pro-rata share determined based upon the combined parental adjusted gross income. There can be slight changes such as when a father pays the entire insurance premium for the children, his support obligation should be reduced by the mother’s pro-rata share of that payment.

There is a presumption that the custodial parent pays their share “in-house” on the children, so no support order is made for the custodial parent.

Variation from guidelines support is also possible, meaning a way for the court to vary from the formula. An instance of this would be if the combined parental monthly income is below $500 or above $10,000, which is the income range covered by the guidelines. Above or below those numbers, the court can use its discretion in determining the proper child support obligation.

Another variation from guidelines should happen when parents have joint/split custody. This does not mean that one parent has a typical visitation schedule, including summer visitation. This means when both parents have a substantial amount of time with the children, up to and including a 50/50 sharing of time. With a 50/50 sharing, the child support obligation is calculated for both parents; the higher obligation is reduced by the lower obligation and the balance becomes the child support obligation of the parent with the higher adjusted gross income. If the sharing is less than 50/50, the court uses its discretion to determine the fair and just amount of support, under those circumstances, using the guidelines as a starting point.

There are other bases for variation which would be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

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Calculating Child Support In Alabama For The Self-Employed

For those that are self-employed, the court has a different way of calculating gross income. Be careful not to assume that Alabama courts will allow the same deductions as the IRS. They will not.

If you have a child support case in Alabama or need to initiate a child support filing, our Family Lawyers can help. We have family attorneys in Huntsville, Athens, and Birmingham who are knowledgeable of Alabama law and out-of-state child support. 

Call or text (256) 859-7277 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form

When Is Divorce a Good Idea?

When is divorce a good ideaWhen you face difficulties in your marriage, you may wonder when divorce is a good idea. Even if you do not yet know if you truly want a divorce, you may have questions about how to make the right choice for you and your family.

Divorce may offer the right choice if you experienced marital challenges for a long time, tried unsuccessfully to improve your situation, and/or if your spouse shows abusive or neglectful behavior toward you or your children. However, every person and every situation comes with different considerations. Therefore, only you—potentially with assistance from a divorce attorney—can decide if you should get a divorce.

Deciding When Divorce Offers the Right Choice for You

Couple Talking About DivorceEvery marriage has highs and lows, and hitting a low patch does not necessarily mean you should divorce.

Instead, you may try other, less drastic actions to solve the problem first, such as:

  • Marriage counseling: Marriage counselors can help couples work through their difficulties and determine what each party needs to consider their marriage happy and successful.
  • A trial separation: This means you or your spouse would move somewhere else for a while to see how you both react to being without the other. Sometimes, you may need a little time away to see things clearly and help you decide whether you want to go through with a divorce.
  • Open communication: Even if you do not hire a marriage counselor to mediate, you and your spouse could benefit from having honest conversations about how you feel and what might save your marriage.

These options can prove difficult and can require a lot of effort. However, if you and your spouse still love each other and want to make your marriage work, they can prove well worth it.

These solutions do not apply in all circumstances. For instance, if you face physical danger because of your spouse, you may need to get away from them as soon as possible. You should not feel guilty for demanding a divorce rather than trying to reconcile with someone who hurt you. Not every marriage is salvageable.

Imprisonment can be a precursor to divorce in AlabamaAlabama also recognizes that not every marriage can (or should) continue. Alabama law lists the circumstances under which one or both spouses may file for divorce.

Some of these include:

  • Imprisonment: If your spouse receives a prison sentence of more than seven years, you may seek a divorce after two years of prison time.
  • Abuse: When one spouse endangers the other with acts of violence, the abused spouse has every right to seek a divorce.
  • Addiction: If your spouse developed a drug or alcohol addiction during the marriage, you could cite this as grounds for divorce.
  • Infidelity: When your spouse is unfaithful, you may decide to give them another chance, or you may decide to end the marriage. You must decide which option offers the right choice for you.
  • “Incompatibility of temperament”: You do not need to suffer a major tragedy to justify a divorce. You only need to show that you and your spouse simply cannot get along based on your personalities.

Seeking a divorce can bring on feelings of shame or failure for many reasons. However, a divorce can offer an important step for both partners to grow in healthy new directions.

A compassionate divorce attorney can assess your situation and determine which legal provision applies.

Considering Your Children’s Needs

You may consider whether you should seek a divorce based on concerns about your children’s wellbeing. While you may worry about your children during and after a divorce, children can benefit from divorce if it helps the parents live healthier lives. After all, a divorce can positively impact both parents.

With proper care and attention, your children can understand the divorce and learn to adjust to the new situation. Everyones’ lives could feel healthier once you and your spouse feel happier.

Understanding Divorce in Alabama

The legal steps necessary before proceeding with your Alabama case depend on:

  • Whether you and your spouse both agreed to the divorce
  • How many and what assets and debts you need to divide
  • Whether or not you have children

Even if you think you know what to expect from a divorce, you should talk things over with a lawyer. They can take the best actions to ensure a fair divorce. They may even point out factors you didn’t realize might affect your divorce.

Here’s what you should know about divorce in Alabama.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce often makes for the fastest and simplest type of divorce in Alabama. When both parties agree to the divorce’s conditions (e.g., splitting assets or child custody), an uncontested divorce allows you and your spouse to get on with your lives much sooner.

Contested Divorce

You have a contested divorce if you face any point of contention between you and your partner.

With a contested divorce process:

  • You or your attorneys collect evidence (such as interviews) to support your respective positions.
  • You or your attorneys meet to negotiate over the points of contention.
  • Your attorneys represent you in the courtroom if negotiations stall.

High-Asset Divorce

The more assets you and your spouse have, the more difficulties you may face during divorce.

An attorney with experience in high-asset divorce cases can make things easier by:

  • Compiling a complete list of all of the assets you need to consider
  • Informing you of any laws that dictate how to split certain assets
  • Helping you and your spouse agree on how to split contested assets

Military Divorce

If you or your spouse is an active-duty member of the U.S. military, you may have special concerns that civilian couples would never have to think about, like whether the civilian partner would continue to receive military benefits based on the active-duty spouse’s service.

As with high-asset divorces, you can protect your rights by hiring a military divorce attorney who can tell you how your service affects your case.

Other Things to Consider About the Divorce Process

When you start thinking about divorce, you may need to consider how the divorce will affect your life and finances. You may need to work through these aspects of a divorce:

Alimony and Child Support

When one spouse makes significantly more than the other or when one spouse does not work at all, it is natural for the more dependent spouse to worry about how they will support themselves and their children after the divorce goes through. However, a court may order alimony payments in your case.

The judge will consider:

  • Whether either of you will pay alimony
  • The amount of alimony and/or child support that one spouse should pay
  • How long the payments will continue (e.g., if child support should end when the children reach the age of majority)

Custody Arrangements

If you have children with your spouse, you may have concerns about who will take care of them after the divorce. If so, conversations about custody should play a prominent role in your divorce proceedings.

You have several options available in terms of custody arrangements, including:

  • Sole custody: You or your spouse would bear primary responsibility for the child’s welfare. The other spouse may still retain visitation rights to see the child regularly and/or have the legal right to have a say in big decisions like healthcare.
  • Joint custody: You and your spouse would share time with the child. You and your spouse can create a schedule that allows for equitable time or the court can create a schedule for you. For example, your child(ren) would stay with you from Monday through Wednesday and your spouse from Thursday through Sunday. You would then switch off for holidays and vacations.
  • Protection orders: Sometimes, one spouse poses a clear and present danger to their children. In such cases, the court can ensure they have restricted or supervised access to the children. In some cases, the parent may have no access to the children.

If you disagree with your spouse concerning childcare, a divorce lawyer can help you fight for the outcome that best serves you and your children.

Divorce Expenses

Divorces can prove expensive, especially if you have a contested divorce.

You would have to pay for:

  • The divorce itself
  • Fees for requesting documents and evidence from various sources
  • Travel expenses (to get to and from the court and other places)
  • Childcare expenses (for someone to watch your kids as you deal with your case)
  • Attorney’s fees

With all of these costs to think about, you may feel tempted to forego a divorce lawyer and fight your case on your own.

However, this could cost you more in the long run because you probably do not have the same legal savvy as a lawyer concerning:

  • Your rights during a divorce
  • What assets you could keep and which you must give up or fight for
  • How to communicate with judges, lawyers, and others in the legal profession

Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

A divorce attorney can benefit your case in many ways. First, you could feel significant relief knowing that you have a legal professional in your corner fighting for you while focusing on what your life will look like post-divorce.

A lawyer can:

  • Tell you more about the different kinds of divorce options you have
  • Help you figure out what paperwork to file and when, and then submit that paperwork on your behalf
  • Answer any questions you have on any legal topic throughout the case
  • Negotiate with your spouse (or your spouse’s attorney) regarding any provision in your divorce
  • Inform you about the fairness of any deals offered by the other side or if you should keep fighting for better terms
  • Represent you before a family law judge if your case goes to court
  • Walk you through the entire process from start to finish

Know You Are Not Alone

It is normal to feel scared and isolated when you go through a divorce. However, it may help you to remember that divorce happens regularly, and many people have gone through it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the country saw around 7.5 divorces per 1,000 women in one recent year.

If you need emotional support to make it through your divorce, you can consider finding an online or in-person support group with whom you can share your experiences and get advice on how to recover from your divorce.

How Can I Ensure a Divorce Is a Good Idea?

When considering divorce, know that divorce is the right choice when you can see no other way of bettering your situation, even after taking appropriate measures to try to fix things within the marriage.

You may feel conflicted and guilty about ending your marriage, even in the best-case scenario when you and your spouse agree on this decision. Therefore, you may find it helps to consult a divorce attorney to better understand what divorce entails, when and how to get one, and whether this constitutes the right choice for you and your family.

You Can Learn More About Your Divorce Options Through an Evaluation

Charlotte Christian
Divorce Attorney, Charlotte Christian

Determining when divorce is a good idea for you may form one of the most difficult, heartrending decisions you will ever face. Divorce lawyers understand the complex divorce process and the feelings it may generate for you and your family.

Many law firms offer no-obligation evaluations, so you can learn more about your options. Consider whether an evaluation with a law firm could help you clarify whether divorce is a good idea for you and your family. Contact a law firm who can also help you think through approaches to a divorce, such as collaborative divorce.

What Papers Do I Need to File to Begin Divorce Proceedings?

To file for a divorce in Alabama, you’ll need to complete a range of documentation—first and foremost, a divorce complaint. The necessary type and quantity of documentation depend on the facts of your divorce.

For instance, divorces involving child custody require specific papers that childless divorces don’t. In addition, if your case involves financial hardship, you may need to submit paperwork that acknowledges said hardship—called an affidavit. A divorce attorney can tell you more about any documents required in your case and help you get the necessary paperwork.

Documents You May Need to Begin Divorce Proceedings

Typically, you’ll need some version of these documents to file for divorce:

  • A divorce complaint: This document initiates the divorce. In completing it, you’ll provide your personal information and the date of your marriage. The example form from the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) covers divorces without shared assets or children.
  • Court summons: A court summons informs someone that they must attend legal proceedings.
  • Child custody: Alabama offers specific forms to request child custody. If you had children with your partner, you’ll need to complete a form to request custody.
  • Answer to divorce complaint: If your spouse filed the complaint, you’ll need to answer the divorce complaint. You have 30 days after you receive a divorce complaint to respond.
  • Divorce certificate: After your divorce proceedings, you will receive these papers. Once signed by you and your partner, it officially ratifies your divorce.

Filing a divorce is rarely straightforward. Some cases require enormous documentation, whereas others rely on just a few key papers. If you’re confused about filing your divorce in Alabama, consider consulting with a law firm.

What Information Do I Need To File a Divorce in Alabama?

To prepare your case, you’ll need to collect:

  • Your name and your partner’s name
  • The names of your children
  • Your and your spouse’s ages
  • Date of separation
  • Date of marriage
  • Residency documentation

To file for a divorce in Alabama, at least one of the spouses must have been a state resident for at least six months before filing.

Also:

  • If the person you file the divorce against (the defendant) lives in Alabama, you do not need to be a resident of Alabama.
  • If the defendant lives outside of Alabama, you must have resided in Alabama for at least six months.

Grounds for Divorce

In Alabama, you can seek either a fault-based or no-fault divorce. In a fault-based divorce, you’ll need to establish that your partner did something wrong that led to the marriage’s breakdown. On the other hand, you could file a no-fault divorce if you can’t prove that your partner was at fault. This may mean that the marriage has irreconcilable differences that prevent the marriage’s repair, or the spouses face an incompatibility of temperament.

Common grounds for a fault-based divorce in Alabama include:

  • Cheating
  • Your partner was in prison for at least two years
  • Abuse and neglect
  • Drug addiction
  • Participation in illegal activity

When the other spouse responds to a divorce complaint, they may agree or disagree with the divorce, the listed grounds, or other legal matters. Depending on whether spouses can agree on the divorce terms, they may have a contested or uncontested divorce.

What You Should Know About Uncontested Divorces

Uncontested divorces offer both a quicker and cheaper legal process than contested divorces. This divorce occurs when both partners agree on every aspect of their separation.

In some cases, after a long delay, an uncontested divorce can become a contested divorce.

What to Understand About Contested Divorces

To settle a divorce, you and your partner must agree on:

  • Child custody
  • The division of assets
  • Alimony payments
  • Child support

These subjects often prove contentious. For example, one spouse might refuse to pay alimony or request sole physical custody of the couple’s children. If these disagreements prevent the divorce from progressing, it becomes contested.

To settle a contested divorce, you and your partner must work through your disagreements until both parties feel satisfied. Otherwise, you may need to go to court and have a judge issue orders on these legal matters.

Contested divorces often entail longer divorce proceedings. Due to the involvement of negotiations and potential time in court, they can take up to a year or more.

How Are Contested Divorces Settled?

Settling a contested divorce usually happens through one of four avenues:

  • An agreement between you and your partner: Divorces are unlike most other legal cases in that they allow the involved parties to communicate with each other. You don’t have to use this communication channel, but you can use it to settle a disagreement.
  • Your legal teams negotiate: If you hire a lawyer, you can completely defer to them during negotiations. Once they know your negotiation priorities, they can communicate with the other party’s legal team to work toward an equitable settlement.
  • Mediation: Mediation entails a sit-down discussion supervised by a third-party mediator. This mediator cannot make decisions for you and your partner. However, they can facilitate your discussion and create the space for you both to agree. Your lawyer can accompany you at these meetings.
  • Trial: Divorce trials typically prove more challenging than uncontested or mediated divorces. They’re time-intensive and typically costly. They only arise if other negotiation methods fail to produce a positive result. During a trial, a judge will hear from both sides of the marriage and ultimately decide the case’s outcome.

What Is Divorce by Default?

The first step of divorce happens when one party files a complaint with the other. Because the defendant has limited time to respond to the complaint, the plaintiff can request a divorce by default if the defendant fails to respond.

If the judge affirms this request, a divorce by default begins. This process works like a divorce trial, where both parties make their case, with one primary difference. In a divorce by default, only one party can make their case. The other party, who failed to respond to the divorce claim, cannot give the judge any input. Therefore, their opinions on alimony, child custody, and other facets of the divorce are legally inadmissible.

If your partner secures a divorce by default, you won’t have a say in:

  • The division of your shared assets
  • Whether alimony payments happen
  • How frequently you can see your children
  • Whether you have custody over your children

If your spouse served you a divorce complaint, you may want to avoid divorce by default. The judge issues a final opinion on proceedings in a divorce by default, and you cannot easily petition against these final decisions.

Will a Prenup Affect My Case?

Yes. If you and your spouse signed a prenup—shorthand for prenuptial agreement—it could impact your case. These agreements mostly affect the distribution of assets after a divorce. However, you can’t use a prenup to predetermine child custody rulings in Alabama.

If your contested divorce goes to trial, the judge assigned to your case has final jurisdiction over custody arrangements, regardless of whether you signed a prenup or not.

Can I Sign a Prenup if My Spouse and I Are Already Married?

Yes. You can sign a prenup if you’ve already gotten married. Known as postnups, they often have the same powers as prenups.

What Are the Benefits of Prenup Agreements?

Prenups have several benefits, including:

Offering Financial Protection

Prenups offer financial protection to both partners. For example, during a marriage, partners can take on individual debts. Without a prenup, you could feel saddled with said debts, even if you didn’t take them on individually. Similarly, prenups protect personal inheritances. Divorces without prenups split most unprotected assets, including your inheritance money.

Assets subject to a prenup in Alabama include:

  • Loans
  • Debt
  • Inherited assets
  • Homeownership
  • Vehicles
  • Stock options
  • Retirement plans

Prenups also protect higher earners. Historically, this was primarily beneficial to men, who earned more than their spouses. However, the wage gap continues to close. Today, many women earn more than their male partners. With a prenup, they can set the terms of a possible future division of assets.

Establishes Trust

Prenups get a bad rap. Many criticize them as a tool for those planning to get a divorce before the marriage even begins. In reality, prenups offer an effective tool that can establish trust between both partners.

By signing a prenup, you and your partner acknowledge the harsh reality of marriage—sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. It’s not calloused to acknowledge this fact. It’s just planning for every possible outcome.

Facilitates a Positive Post-Marriage Relationship

Some divorces progress smoothly. You and your partner agree on its terms, and you can work together to parent your children. The divorce proceedings may not negatively impact your relationship, and you can continue to get along as friends long after the marriage ends.

Other divorces prove messier, though. In contested divorces, disagreements can permanently damage your relationship with your ex-partner. A strained relationship doesn’t just impact your well-being—it can also cause stress in your shared children.

Prenups can offer an insurance policy against this outcome. While you and your partner will still need to discuss child custody after your divorce, a prenup forces you to agree on most of the other major pain points.

Prenup Considerations

Before beginning the prenup process, consider these caveats:

  • Prenups do not feel romantic: While prenups can create trust between you and your partner, they often don’t seem romantic at first. Signing a contract may sound like a Hollywood-like way to begin a marriage, but in reality, it offers practical benefits. However, if you’d like to delay your prenup, you can always sign one after marrying.
  • You can’t force someone to sign a prenup: Forcing someone to sign a prenup can constitute coercion. A judge may throw out a prenup if a spouse felt coerced. Similarly, a judge may invalidate the prenup if one partner was denied legal counsel before signing.
  • Prenups do not always seem fair: It’s easy to make mistakes on your prenup if you sign them during the honeymoon phase of your marriage. Love can feel intoxicating and cause irrational behavior in the best of us. While not always obvious at first, these mistakes can have consequences down the line.

Seek a divorce lawyer before finalizing your prenup. They can explain what a prenup does and help you maintain the status of your agreement.

Legal assistance can also protect you from common prenup errors and ensure that the document offers fair conditions to both partners. Each spouse can seek legal counsel before signing a prenup.

Should I Hire a Divorce Lawyer?

Dealing with a divorce and its consequences can prove difficult. Without guidance, you may argue with your spouse, further damaging a strained relationship. Hiring a lawyer for a divorce in Alabama is always your choice. However, the divorce process can prove rife with pitfalls. When seeking a divorce, it’s easy to make costly mistakes.

Support During a Contested Divorce

Contested divorces often morph into drawn-out legal battles. As noted earlier, you could end up negotiating with your partner about the fate of your family and personal assets.

You could benefit from the assistance of a lawyer during a contested divorce. They’ll fight for you, your family, and your assets.

Assistance With Legal Proceedings

Divorces, like many other types of legal cases, hinge on evidence. To build your case, a lawyer can open an investigation into your marriage.

Known as discovery, this process covers:

  • Request for production: This seeks documentation your partner may hold, including yearly income, credit and debit card statements, tax returns, and retirement account information.
  • Request for admissions: These requests typically entail yes-or-no questions. They can reveal extramarital affairs and similar marriage infractions.

Depositions can supplement these requests. Depositions refer to interviews conducted by lawyers. The subjects of these interviews speak under oath, meaning they can’t lie. Subpoenas—a legal term for an information request—allow lawyers to request additional deposition subjects.

This information will round out your case and determine the outcome of your divorce settlement. Evidence can prove crucial in a contested divorce, particularly if it necessitates a trial. During a trial, a lawyer can represent your side of the case. They’ll use their gathered information to push for a fair resolution.

Do I Need a Lawyer if We Don’t Contest Our Divorce?

Uncontested divorces often prove less complicated than contested divorces. This doesn’t mean that they’re easy, though. To avoid a contested divorce, you must maintain a clear line of communication with your spouse.

This process can feel exhausting, too. You’ll have to review every aspect of your divorce, and eventually present your agreement to a judge. This legal side of the divorce can compound the rest of your stresses, like moving or taking care of your children.

Charlotte Christian
Divorce Attorney, Charlotte Christian

A lawyer can manage every legal aspect of your divorce. This assistance can offer you peace of mind and give you more time to handle the things that matter—like the well-being of your children.

A divorce lawyer could:

  • Negotiate on your behalf
  • Present your case to a judge
  • Offer guidance
  • Advise you on the potential outcomes of your decisions
  • Protect your assets
  • Help you gather and sign important documents

If you have more questions about the paperwork needed to begin divorce proceedings, contact a divorce attorney for a free consultation today.

What Is the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

Divorces and annulments conclude the same way—with the end of a marriage. They take different paths towards this shared goal, though. With a divorce, you establish grounds for the dissolution of the marriage and then negotiate its terms. Annulments, however, can completely void the marriage. This means that under the eyes of the law, the marriage never existed. However, divorces don’t void a marriage. Instead, they acknowledge its existence and signal its end.

A legal annulment is different from a religious annulment. For instance, in the Catholic church, you must receive a religious annulment—called a declaration of nullity—to remarry again in the church. These proceedings have no impact on Alabama law. In the rest of this article, the term annulment will refer to its legal counterpart.

How Do You Annul a Marriage?

You may choose from many possible legal grounds to get a divorce in Alabama. For instance, facing temperamental incompatibilities with your partner is a sufficient ground for divorce.

Unlike divorces, however, annulments require particular grounds.

The stricter annulment guidelines typically include showing that:

  • A partner in the relationship was too young to consent to the marriage (younger than 18)
  • Bigamy took place, meaning one or both partners were already married
  • One spouse tricked the other into marriage
  • One partner hid something essential from the other, like an STD, or they didn’t desire a sexual relationship
  • An incestuous relationship

Annulments necessitate a considerably higher burden of proof than a divorce. If you believe you need an annulment, consider contacting a divorce lawyer’s team. They can advise you on annulments and help you understand your options.

The Difference in Outcomes Between Divorces and Annulments

Annulments and divorce have different outcomes. The benefits you can receive from a divorce may not apply to annulments.

Some legal decisions you can expect in an annulment include:

  • Child custody: The Alabama courts recognize the rights of children born out of wedlock. This means that children whose parents separated via annulment will see similarities to those whose parents divorced. If a judge deems shared custody best for the child or children, the court will determine custody terms.
  • Alimony: Alimony refers to financial support paid from one partner to the other after a divorce. This type of financial support depends on the existence of a past marriage, though. If you file an annulment, you can’t receive permanent alimony. Alimony can prove particularly helpful for those who were stay-at-home parents. Therefore, it’s essential to consider your finances when choosing an annulment or divorce.
  • Division of property: You may need to divide your assets in an annulment. However, in most cases, annulled marriages were never lawful, meaning that a couple’s assets were never mutual. You can’t divide property without designated mutual assets.

Should I Get an Annulment?

Annulments can be challenging to prove. They entail more specific criteria and bar lower-earning spouses from permanent alimony and the claim of mutual assets.

An annulment could offer a solution if you had a short-lived relationship and few shared assets. In most cases, however, divorces make more sense than annulments. A family law firm can further explain the differences between annulments and divorces.

Choosing an Uncontested Divorce Instead of an Annulment

In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on the terms of the divorce and part amicably. If you plan to file an annulment, you should first consider the benefits of seeking an uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce can be:

  • Less time-consuming
  • More cost-effective
  • Can lead to a better relationship with your ex-spouse

For a divorce to proceed without contention, both parties must agree on its terms. You will need to discuss:

Child Custody

Alabama law recognizes two types of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custody permits a parent to make decisions about a child’s life, like healthcare, education, and more. Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with. A parent can have sole or joint custody in both areas.

For example, if a parent had both legal and physical custody, they would care for the child and make decisions about their life. The other parent may have no custody but could visit the child, depending on the agreed-upon custody arrangement.

Visitation Schedule

You’ll need to create a visitation schedule if one parent has sole physical custody. This schedule will determine when the other parent, who doesn’t have physical custody, can visit the child or children. You must account for variances in this schedule, like holidays and summer breaks.

Distribution of Assets

Most married couples share several assets, including:

  • A home
  • A bank account
  • Debts and loans
  • Vehicles
  • Other forms of financial assets, like retirement plans

A divorce plan must account for the distribution of these assets. You need to agree on who gets what percentage of each asset.

Alimony

Alimony refers to financial support for a spouse, which may come in addition to child support. A recently divorced parent can face responsibility for both alimony and child support.

Historically, women had a right to alimony payments from their ex-husbands. However, the lesser earner in a marriage can now get alimony regardless of gender. You and your partner must agree upon fair alimony payments during your divorce. Similarly, if the lesser-earning spouse decides that they don’t need financial support, they can waive their right to alimony.

To secure alimony, you must prove that:

  • You require financial support.
  • The other party has the financial means to pay said support.

Are Contested Divorces Different From Uncontested Divorces?

In a contested divorce, you and your partner disagree about one of the above factors. Contested divorces can begin as uncontested divorces, too, but may change because of an unforeseen disagreement.

Typically, these disagreements resolve through:

  • Mediation: During mediation, you and your partner sit with a third-party mediator. The mediator will facilitate your discussion but can’t resolve the issue. Attorneys can also represent you at these meetings.
  • Attorney negotiation: It’s possible to defer to your lawyer during the negotiation process. They’ll contact the other party’s lawyer and work towards a fair resolution.
  • The settlement agreement between you and your spouse: Unlike other types of litigation, you can speak with the other party during a divorce. If you choose, you can settle your disagreement directly with your partner.
  • Trial: Your divorce will proceed to trial if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement through the above methods. During the trial, you and your legal team will make your case before a judge. Ultimately, the judge will have the final say on your case. If you or your partner disagree with their ruling, you can appeal.

The Steps of the Divorce Process

A divorce necessitates multiple steps. First, you must ensure that you meet Alabama state residency requirements.

These requirements include the following, per Alabama law:

  • You can file for a divorce if you do not have residency in Alabama, provided the defendant (your partner) holds residency status.
  • If you and your partner both have residency in Alabama, you can file a divorce whenever necessary.
  • If the defendant holds residency in another state, you must show that you lived in Alabama for at least six months before filing a divorce.

Grounds for Divorce

Grounds for divorce refer to specific reasons that permit you to file a divorce.

They include, among other instances:

  • Your partner cheated on you.
  • Your partner abandoned you for a year or more.
  • Your partner is in jail. They must have served two or more years of a prison sentence lasting seven years or longer.
  • Your partner was participating in criminal activities.
  • Your partner has a drug addiction.

These examples include grounds for a fault-based divorce. In such a divorce, the complaint states that the defendant took part in specific behaviors or illegal activities that wronged the filing spouse.

Alabama doesn’t require you to pursue a fault-based divorce, though. No-fault divorces can offer another potential option.

They include instances where:

  • You and your partner do not have compatible temperaments.
  • You believe that you cannot salvage your relationship.

Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll need to explain to a judge why you want to end your relationship when you file a divorce complaint.

Submitting a Divorce Complaint

Once you’ve met the above eligibility guidelines, you can submit a divorce complaint.

To file this complaint, you’ll need to gather:

  • Your name and your partner’s name
  • The names of your children and their documentation
  • The date of your marriage
  • The grounds for divorce
  • Proof of residency

A lawyer can gather your required documentation, write your complaint with it, and serve it to your partner.

Replying to a Divorce Complaint

You have 30 days to reply if you receive a divorce complaint.

If you don’t reply by the deadline, a divorce-by-default could take the place of standard proceedings.

In a divorce-by-default, the party who filed the divorce will make their case to a judge without any input from their partner. Then, the judge will decide on the factors of the divorce. This type of divorce completely bars the party who failed to respond to the complaint from having any say in child custody, alimony, and the division of property.

Settling the Divorce

Once you file the complaint and the other party responds to or ignores it, you can work towards establishing the terms of your divorce.

As noted earlier, this process can involve:

  • Negotiation between you and your partner
  • Mediation
  • Trial

How Do I Know If I Need a Divorce?

When you entered your marriage, you likely never dreamed that you might eventually consider ending your partnership. When you feel deeply in love with your partner, marriage always sounds like a good idea. However, everyone changes with time. This change can bring you and your partner closer or further apart. If any of the following sounds like your relationship, you may want to consider a divorce:

You Have Exhausted All Efforts to Fix Your Marriage

All marriages hit rough patches. However, if you have taken advantage of all available resources and feel as though your marriage has run its course, you may feel option divorce is the right option for you.

Your Partner Emotionally or Physically Abuses You or Your Children

As one half of your relationship, it’s your job to support your partner and treat them with love and care.

If your partner hurts you or your children emotionally or physically, do not remain in your marriage. Call a divorce lawyer near you to discuss how you can safely leave your spouse.

Your Partner Cheated on You

Cheating doesn’t always spell the end of a marriage. Some couples, through therapy and deep reflection, weather infidelity. However, if the affairs become a pattern or you fail to recover from infidelity, you may want to consider your options.

Why Should I Hire a Lawyer?

It’s always your choice to get legal help if you’re seeking a divorce in Alabama. However, divorces can prove complex. They involve a range of tricky laws and codes you’ll need to abide by. Similarly, if your partner hires a lawyer, you likely won’t want to face their legal team alone.

A Divorce Lawyer Protects Your Interests

Charlotte Christian
Divorce Attorney, Charlotte Christian

Whether you face a contested or uncontested divorce, a lawyer can protect your best interests. For example, during a divorce, your partner may attempt to claim large portions of your property, finances, or belongings. A lawyer can actively fight against these attempts.

Divorce Lawyers Advise You During an Emotional Time

Divorces don’t always progress straightforwardly. If you and your spouse continue to disagree on the terms of your divorce, your case may proceed to trial. A divorce lawyer can offer you advice on the divorce process. This advice could prove invaluable and increase your chances of securing a positive divorce settlement.

Divorce lawyers offer no-obligation consultations to learn your story and help you explore your options.

What Is a Divorce by Default?

In Alabama, a divorce process begins when one divorcee files a complaint against the other. The other spouse must respond within 30 days. If the person who receives the complaint fails to respond, then a divorce by default occurs. During a default divorce, the party who initially filed for the divorce must appear in court. They’ll list their demands to the judge, and the judge will make an order to settle the matter.

Since the ex-spouse never responded to the divorce claim, they cannot dispute these demands. You must respond to a divorce claim as soon as you can. If a default hearing takes place, you can’t negotiate the terms of your divorce. Only the party who filed the divorce gets to testify in a default hearing. You can avoid this outcome by responding to a divorce claim and cooperating with your ex-partner through negotiations.

Could a Divorce by Default Benefit Me?

Yes. If your spouse does not respond to your complaint within 30 days, you can request a divorce by default. This will allow you to shape the terms of your divorce without their legally admissible input.

What Other Types of Divorce Could I Expect?

Divorces take different forms in Alabama, including:

  • Uncontested divorce: When both parties agree on alimony, child custody, and other terms, they enter an uncontested divorce. These types of divorces may necessitate mediation. During mediation, both parties can work to iron out their divorce’s details. Uncontested divorces usually prove the cheapest and fastest option.
  • Contested divorce: A contested divorce happens when one party doesn’t agree with the other party’s demands. The divorce may go before a judge if the couple cannot negotiate the legal details in mediation or through their attorneys. In the divorce trial, both parties will express their demands before a county circuit court judge, who will decide the outcome. Once the judge settles the divorce, they will issue a decree, and the spouses will officially separate.

How Do I File for a Divorce?

Before filing for a divorce, you must check to see that your case meets Alabama’s residency requirements.

Per Alabama law:

  • You can file for a divorce immediately if both spouses have legal residency in Alabama.
  • If you and your spouse aren’t legal residents of Alabama, you must wait six months to gain residency status.
  • If you don’t have legal residency in Alabama, but your spouse has residency status, you can file for a divorce.

Establishing Grounds for Divorce

If you meet Alabama’s divorce residency requirements, you must establish the grounds for your divorce.

You could file for divorce if:

  • Your spouse behaved violently toward you or your children.
  • Your spouse developed an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
  • Your spouse abandoned you for a year or more.
  • Your spouse cheated on you.
  • Your spouse was in prison (for at least two years of the past seven).

This does not reflect a complete list of potential grounds for divorce. A lawyer can advise you on other grounds.

Notably, the above examples include fault-based divorce grounds, meaning your spouse’s inappropriate behavior caused your marriage’s breakdown. In these cases, you could receive a larger share of alimony and a greater portion of child custody.

However, Alabama also allows plaintiffs (those pursuing a divorce) to file no-fault divorces. No-fault claims can trigger the uncontested divorce process. During this process, you and your partner can separate amicably and negotiate the terms of your divorce without conflict. As noted earlier, uncontested divorces often prove less expensive and time-consuming than no-fault divorces.

Two possible grounds for no-fault divorce include:

  • Your marriage suffered from an irretrievable breakdown—meaning there’s nothing you can do to repair your marriage.
  • You and your spouse have incompatible personalities.

Filing Divorce Papers

Next, you will need to file your divorce papers.

In Alabama, this requires the following documentation:

  • Your and your spouse’s name
  • The date of separation
  • Stated grounds for divorce
  • Your children’s information, such as Social Security numbers and birth certificates
  • The location and date of your marriage
  • Proof of residency, if applicable

A divorce lawyer can assist you with this process. They can gather the necessary documentation and serve the divorce complaint to your spouse.

Will a Prenup Affect My Divorce?

Yes, the existence of a prenup—shorthand for a prenuptial agreement—will impact your divorce proceedings. Prenups are legally binding agreements. They dictate how your shared finances and other common points of dispute work if a separation occurs, either through death or divorce.

These agreements apply to:

  • The separation of finances
  • Alimony
  • Debts
  • Inheritance
  • Division of assets, which includes pets

If you previously agreed to a prenup, this agreement will guide the outcome of your divorce.

Prenups can prove beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Reduces arguing during a divorce: Divorces often culminate in arguments over finances and shared child custody. With a prenup, you and your spouse will have less to argue about. This can benefit you and your children by preventing a breakdown in your relationship with your ex-spouse.
  • Establishes trust: Couples don’t get prenups because they intend to get divorced. Rather, they get prenups to account for the uncertainty of the future. Some couples drift apart after spending years together. Prenups encourage trust and allow you to have a positive relationship with your ex-spouse, even after divorce.
  • Debt protection: Individuals in a relationship can take out personal loans and other forms of debt. Without a prenup, either or both spouses may need to share this debt after a divorce. You could be saddled with your partner’s debt if you don’t sign a prenup, even if you had no hand securing their loans.
  • Financial protection: When establishing a prenup, you and your partner will agree on mutual assets. In a future divorce, you will split these assets. On the other hand, if you’d like to protect some portion of your assets, like inheritance, you can do so with a prenup.

How Is a Postnup Different From a Prenup?

On paper, postnups look similar to prenups. However, you sign a postnup after you get married rather than before. The advantage to a postnup is that it allows both partners to consider their position in a relationship before agreeing to a legally binding contract.

What Aspects of Divorce Do Not Get Covered By a Prenup?

Prenups and postnups don’t apply to all legal aspects of a divorce, including:

Common Misconceptions About Postnups and Prenups

People may view prenups negatively for many reasons. Some might say they’re only for men or wealthy people. In reality, though, prenups offer couples a useful tool. If used mindfully, they can alleviate some of the stresses associated with marriage.

A few common misconceptions about prenups include:

  • They only benefit men: Historically, men out-earned women. In the past, then, prenups often allowed men to protect their assets. The wage gap is closing, though. Many women earn more than romantic partners now. Similarly, prenups can protect both spouses, not just one party.
  • Prenups lead to divorce: Prenups don’t necessarily lead to divorce. Rather, they force the couple to address tricky issues—like shared finances—early on. Speaking about challenging issues can build trust and strengthen a relationship.
  • You can keep all your assets in a divorce without a prenup: People who earn more than their partners often assume that they get to keep all their assets during a divorce, even without a prenup. However, courts deem many assets as shared property in marriage. Even in non-confrontational divorce proceedings, judges frequently split couples’ shared assets down the middle. Prenups can prevent judges from doing this.
  • Only rich people need prenups: Prenups can prove useful for anyone. These agreements can be cheaper than the potential losses you could suffer if you don’t obtain one.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony refers to financial support paid from one spouse to another during a divorce. This payment can continue after the divorce settles, as well. To request alimony, one party must prove that they require necessary and reasonable support. Both men and women can request alimony. Typically, the higher earner pays out alimony to the lower earner in a relationship.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Alimony can last for a range of periods. For example, a spouse can get temporary alimony during divorce proceedings, while other alimony payments continue after a divorce finalizes. Depending on each party’s finances, you can adjust these payments over time.

Entering a new marriage or securing a high-paying job can cause a reduction in alimony payments. Similarly, if the party paying alimony loses their job or cannot pay as much support, they can revisit the arrangement.

Who Benefits From Alimony Payments?

In some relationships, one spouse earns a significantly higher income. This arrangement typically allows the other party to have time for unpaid housework, like completing chores or raising children. In a divorce, the homemaker may be left without enough finances to support themselves. Alimony allows the lower-earning partner to avoid bankruptcy after a divorce.

What if I Believe That My Ex-Partner No Longer Needs Alimony?

In this case, you’ll need to file a motion with a relevant circuit court judge.

They’ll review the facts of your case, including:

  • The age of you and your partner
  • You and your partner’s financial resources
  • Your ability to continue to pay alimony
  • Your partner’s need for alimony
  • Both parties’ physical and mental conditions
  • The standard of living you both shared during your marriage

These proceedings often prove complex. A lawyer can investigate your case and support you during alimony negotiations—regardless of where you are in the divorce process.

How Does Military Employment Impact Divorce Proceedings?

Military employment alters and complicates divorce proceedings.

Service members can receive:

  • Disability retired pay
  • Combat-related special compensation
  • Veterans’ Affairs disability compensation
  • And more

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act allows a non-military spouse to receive a portion of the service members’ retirement pay and other benefits during a divorce.

If My Ex-Spouse Was in the Military, What Benefits Will I Receive?

It depends on the context of your divorce proceedings.

However, you could seek:

  • A portion of their retirement pay
  • Access to military healthcare facilities
  • Access to military exchanges and commissaries

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to File for a Divorce?

Hiring a lawyer is always your choice. Divorce matters often prove complex. A lawyer can help you in several ways.

Assistance With Amicable Divorces

Not all divorces result in fighting. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t complicated or time-consuming, though. Drafting a divorce agreement often involves considerable commitment. You and your ex-partner will need to iron out the details of your divorce.

If you hire a lawyer, you can delegate the task of finalizing your divorce. They’ll hammer out the details while you and your partner focus on maintaining a healthy post-marriage relationship.

Protect Your Assets

A divorce lawyer can fight for your financial well-being. Contested divorces can put your livelihood at risk. If you’re unsure how to proceed, you might end up saddled with your partner’s debt or have less access to your kids. Similarly, you may not realize that you are entitled to certain assets, such as a portion of your partner’s retirement plan.

A lawyer can advise you on:

  • Child custody
  • Asset division
  • Alimony and child support

Answer the Hard Questions

Charlotte Christian
Divorce Attorney, Charlotte Christian

Divorces rarely prove straightforward. They can get mired in complex Alabama state law. You can approach these proceedings with confidence and clarity with a lawyer by your side. They can provide you with concise answers to all your legal questions.

Get Help From a Divorce Lawyer Today

Divorces often feel painful and confusing. However, a divorce lawyer can guide you throughout the entire process—from start to finish.

A lawyer can have your back. They can help you resolve child custody issues or initiate divorce proceedings. They can also explain your rights and options during a divorce by default. Contact a divorce lawyer’s team for a no-obligation case review today.

What if My Spouse Evades Service of the Divorce Papers?

If your spouse evades service of the divorce papers, you still have every right to proceed with the divorce as planned. The only thing your spouse would accomplish by refusing to participate in the proceedings is giving up their right to seek divorce terms that would benefit them.

Dealing with a reluctant spouse can prove a frustrating, upsetting experience. Feel free to talk to your divorce lawyer about any concerns regarding how your spouse’s behavior may affect divorce proceedings. They can advise you of your options and help you take the steps you need to separate from an unhappy marriage.

What Divorce Papers Do—and What They Do Not

Divorce papers represent the beginning of the end of your marriage. You may feel relief, sadness, joy, or a mixture of all three as you sign them, but giving them to your spouse largely represents a symbolic gesture. Your divorce can go through regardless of whether your spouse ever gets and/or signs the papers.

If your spouse refuses to sign or accept the divorce papers, rest assured that you can still get a divorce.

However, your spouse’s refusal to cooperate can only hurt them by:

  • Encouraging a judge to rule in your favor: When one party fails to respond to a divorce petition in time, the judge presiding over your divorce may grant you the terms that you requested.
  • Denying them a chance to speak on their behalf: If one spouse disagrees with a divorce provision, hiring a lawyer and negotiating with the other party offers a productive way to express their grievance. If they refuse to cooperate, they miss this chance.
  • Causing additional frustration for all parties: Evading divorce papers solves nothing, nor does it stop the divorce from going through. This only causes more animosity between the two parties.

Divorce can prove emotionally grueling for all involved, and one or both parties may feel angry or sad about the process in general or their spouse specifically. However, most lawyers do not recommend avoiding divorce papers as a solution.

If you would like a legal professional to assist you with divorce proceedings and even meet with your spouse or their lawyer on your behalf, you may wish to hire a divorce attorney. They can provide reassurance and advice if you face an uncooperative spouse.

What Kind of Divorce Will I Have?

A divorce can take several forms in Alabama. Your spouse’s attitude may dictate which divorce type you have. Other factors, like what kind of jobs you both have and how many assets you share, will also play a role.

Contested Divorce: Pros and Cons

If your spouse evades the divorce papers, they likely disagree with the divorce or some provision of the divorce. When the two parties cannot agree on such major points, you have no choice but to fight through a contested divorce.

How long it takes to finalize a contested divorce depends on how long it takes for you and your spouse to agree on important issues, such as:

  • Custody matters: Who will get physical custody of the children? Will you share the right to make legal and medical decisions about your children’s future, or will that right go to only one parent?
  • Alimony: Will one spouse help financially support the other, temporarily or over the long term?
  • Child support: How will you and your spouse split the cost of raising your children until they come of age?
  • Division of assets and debts: Who will get significant assets like houses, cars, and real estate holdings? Who will be responsible for paying off student loans and other types of debts?

Uncontested Divorce: Pros and Cons

You can file an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse agree to the divorce and all of its salient points (custody of children, asset division, and other matters).

Uncontested divorces typically finalize much quicker than contested divorces, which means less stress and worry for you. However, you or your spouse may change your mind about the divorce’s provisions later. Then, you have fewer options for modifications than in a contested divorce.

Divorce Attorneys Can Protect Your Rights

If one spouse evades the divorce papers, this can signal that they will not help you make the process as smooth as possible. In such circumstances, you may find it even more important and beneficial to consult an attorney about your divorce.

Ultimately, a divorce attorney has the goal of guiding you through the divorce process while fighting for the provisions you have a right to retain. A lawyer can do this in many ways, including:

Evaluating Your Situation

Many law firms offer case evaluations. During this call, someone from the firm can learn your story and explain what you can do about it without placing you under any obligation to retain their services. In other words, you can start to get an idea of your options and whether or not you feel compatible with a specific law firm—without committing yourself.

In addition, the law firm would continue to provide guidance and advice throughout the proceedings.

You could:

  • Ask them as many questions as you need to understand the process, your rights, and the consequences of your spouse’s action or inaction.
  • Call or text them with additional concerns at any time.
  • Rely on their judgment to help you make important decisions about the divorce and your future.

Collecting Evidence

Your lawyer may go to many different sources to acquire evidence supporting the provisions you seek. This can help them to build a strong and persuasive case.

Evidence may include:

  • Interviews with you, your spouse, your children, and any other involved parties
  • Interviews with witnesses who have critical information about some aspect of your marriage or your suitability to retain custody
  • Documentation from your school, employer, doctor, or anyone else relevant to your situation

Negotiating on Your Behalf

If you feel worried about going to court during your divorce proceedings, you should know that many cases do not get that far. Divorce lawyers can often meet—either by themselves or with their clients present—to agree on matters that the spouses cannot agree on unassisted.

Negotiations can also prove beneficial in another way: sometimes, they can make an uncooperative spouse realize the seriousness of the situation and convince them to start participating in good faith. Extended negotiations could also suggest that going to court will prove necessary.

Representing You in Court

Sometimes, a recalcitrant spouse refuses to come to the negotiating table. Then, you may need to go to circuit court. This would not involve a jury as criminal trials do.

Rather, the process may go something like this:

  • Your attorney would schedule court dates with the appropriate court (i.e., the one with jurisdiction over divorces in your area).
  • Your attorney would submit all the evidence that the judge needs to consider promptly.
  • You do not necessarily have to appear in court. Your attorney could represent you in that venue and tell you how it went afterward.
  • Your attorney would argue your case before the judge. If your spouse participates in the proceedings, they or their lawyer can present their arguments.
  • The judge will consider all arguments and evidence. It may take them several months to render a final verdict and notify you of their decision.

As you can see, at no point in this process would you need to manage your case by yourself or confront your spouse alone. Instead, your divorce lawyer could handle most of the hard work, relieving you of the burden of navigating the legal process and giving you more time to plan for a life post-divorce.

A Difficult Divorce and Your Child

Divorces can cause extreme stress for the separating parties and any children connected to the marriage. The children may find the process even more stressful than their parents, even in the best of circumstances, since they have less understanding of the divorce’s events and no control over the situation. All of your stress levels may increase if one spouse refuses to cooperate.

If you face a divorce process with a reluctant spouse, you must safeguard your mental health and your children’s health.

You can do so by:

  • Spending time with your children: Talk to your children as honestly as possible about why you need a divorce. Watching movies and reading books designed to help children through a divorce can start good conversations.
  • Spending time alone: Your health is important, too. Take some quiet time to yourself to process your feelings and do something that you find fun or relaxing.
  • Joining a support group: Divorce happens commonly enough that you can seek out one of many support groups, which can help you navigate divorce’s ups and downs. You can search for an online or in-person group in your area.
  • Asking family and friends for help: The people closest to you can provide an invaluable source of moral or practical support, such as if you need them to watch the kids while you decompress.

In an ideal situation, your spouse would help you safeguard your children against the emotional strain of divorce proceedings. However, if your spouse cannot make themselves available or refuses to participate, you may have to rely on other relatives or close family friends for additional support.

When Spouses Go Beyond Evading Divorce Papers

Dealing with a spouse who will not accept divorce papers can irritate or anger anyone. Unfortunately, someone can take other troublesome actions when their spouse initiates divorce proceedings.

Some people have to deal with spouses who:

  • Threaten them or their children with physical violence
  • Commit actual physical violence against them or their children
  • Manipulate them through actions like threatening to harm themselves if their spouse proceeds with the divorce

If you believe your spouse could act dangerously with you or anyone else in your family, you may need to take more drastic action. You can talk to your lawyer about how to file a protection order against your spouse.

Such an order, found on the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) website, will:

  • Provide a description of your spouse and what weapons, if any, they may own
  • Identify the person or persons that your spouse cannot contact
  • Explain what actions the spouse cannot take, e.g., contacting the protected persons
  • Explain what actions the spouse must take, e.g., paying child support

A protection order can keep you and your family safe and strengthen your case for divorce provisions. This could include enforcing sole custody of children. In addition, such an order could establish your spouse’s unsuitability for parenthood and may persuade a judge to rule in your favor.

A Final Word

Charlotte Christian
Divorce Attorney, Charlotte Christian

The Final Judgment of Divorce is a simple, one-page document, which you can view on the AOC website. The judge’s signature will complete this document. In other words, one spouse does not need to get the other’s approval before filing for and getting a divorce.

Hopefully, this fact reassures you. If you want a divorce, your spouse cannot stop you from seeking one. If you cannot locate your spouse or if they refuse to cooperate with the proceedings, you and your divorce lawyer can still file and finalize a divorce that can dissolve your marriage and enable you to move on with your life.

Divorce Lawyers Can Help Clients Through the Divorce Process

Divorce lawyers understand that you could face many challenges during a divorce. However, having a spouse who evades service of the divorce papers can only make things even more stressful.

You can take advantage of a legal case evaluation to learn more about your options. Many family law firms offer no-obligation evaluations to those seeking a divorce. In addition, a legal team can offer sympathetic, helpful guidance as you navigate this difficult period in your life.