When 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
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.
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:
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.
One 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.
For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277
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.