You can oppose divorce, but you may want to discuss your options and the likely outcomes of your case before deciding to take this approach. Judges in Alabama generally will not force someone to remain in a marriage of which they do not want to be a part. Additionally, with no-fault divorces, one spouse can name the grounds for divorce without the other agreeing.
If your spouse served you with divorce papers, you should speak with an Alabama divorce lawyer as soon as possible. A confidential, no-obligation consultation can help you understand your options for opposing the divorce.
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Understanding How Divorce Works in Alabama
Going through a divorce is a painful, stressful time for anyone. However, the process can be even more challenging if you do not want a divorce. Knowing how Alabama handles the dissolution of marriage may help you understand your best options for action when you oppose the divorce.
Judges Will Not Force a Couple to Stay Married
It is hard for the court to force someone to remain married if they opt to end their marriage. The judge will likely grant the divorce if one spouse seeks it.
If you or your spouse refuses to agree to a divorce or any factors related to the divorce, you may face litigation. The case will go before the judge at trial. Your spouse’s lawyer will present evidence to show why your spouse wants a divorce and why they believe the court should allow one.
This process generally ends with the judge issuing:
- A divorce decree
- Instructions for property division
- A ruling on alimony, if requested
- Child custody and parenting plan for minor children
Once the judge has granted the divorce, they will make several rulings to disentangle both spouses’ lives and create an ideal plan for the children involved.
You Can Oppose Parts of the Divorce
If you disagree with a divorce, you may not want to oppose the entire divorce overall. Instead, you may want to focus on working through these legal matters with your spouse and fighting for your best interests. Again, working with your attorney can help you determine what you should do and how to react to your spouse filing for divorce.
Divorce is hard enough. You do not have to try to navigate this process and defend yourself and your marriage alone. Working with a team of family law attorneys can reduce your stress and ensure you have someone by your side every step.
No-Fault Divorce Only Requires One Spouse to Make the Claim
Alabama allows both fault and no-fault divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the plaintiff—the spouse who files the divorce—does not have to blame their partner for misbehavior leading to the marriage’s end. Instead, they can claim one of two no-fault grounds.
Under Alabama law, this could constitute:
- Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage: The relationship between the spouses has no hope for repair.
- Incompatibility: The spouses simply cannot get along, making it impossible to remain married.
To bring a divorce on one of these grounds, one spouse must file a petition to divorce and tell the court they want the marriage to end. The judge will not require the other spouse to agree. One partner attempting to end the marriage offers sufficient evidence for most judges to grant the divorce and issue a decree.
In a divorce based on fault grounds, the plaintiff who files the petition must name the specific grounds and be able to provide evidence to support these grounds in court.
Some acceptable grounds for an Alabama fault-based divorce include:
- Drinking or drug use
- Incapacitation because of a physical or mental condition
- Institutionalization for a serious mental health issue
- Incarceration for a serious crime
- A crime against nature
Generally, the plaintiff outlines a case showing how their spouse caused the divorce when they file based on fault-based grounds. This may lead to uncomfortable, upsetting, and embarrassing evidence coming to light. For this reason, many people avoid filing a fault-based petition.
Others feel angry or frustrated, want to feel heard, or want acknowledgment of their pain. In these situations, a fault-based claim may offer the best option.
While you must prove a fault-based claim in court, weak evidence and an unconvincing claim won’t necessarily stop a divorce. For example, judges in Alabama will likely grant a divorce even if the plaintiff does not prove fault-based grounds.
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What Happens When the Defendant Does Not Respond to a Divorce Petition?
It can be challenging for some spouses to acknowledge a divorce. While a spouse may want to push the topic down the road for a few weeks or months, they have a deadline to respond. Ignoring a divorce petition means something very different from opposing the divorce and fighting for a different outcome.
You or your spouse must respond to the petition appropriately and within the established timeframe. Simply ignoring it and not responding is not a good option.
If the defendant spouse does not respond, the spouse who filed for divorce may receive everything they requested in the petition, including a divorce. The defendant spouse should participate in the process and seek their share of property and child custody.
What to Expect From the Divorce Process in Alabama
The Alabama divorce process begins with several steps:
- One partner’s attorney writes a petition outlining the client’s desire for a divorce, the reasons why, and their proposed plan for property division, spousal support, child custody, and more.
- The lawyer files the paperwork to initiate the divorce at the family law court in the appropriate county.
- A process server delivers a copy of the petition and a summons to the other spouse. You could receive the divorce complaint by another means.
- The spouse has a limited time to hire an attorney, develop their proposed plan or otherwise respond, and submit their documents to the court.
The defendant needs to file a legal response to the divorce petition.
The legal response will include:
- Their opinion and/or defense to the grounds
- Counterclaims in some cases
- Their proposed plan for property division, spousal support, and child custody
- Other information pertinent to the case
Your attorney can handle putting together your response and filing it with the appropriate court. They can also manage deadlines. You must act quickly after receiving a divorce complaint. Defendants generally only have 30 days to file a response before time runs out.
When the time expires for the other spouse to respond to a divorce petition, the judge puts the case on the docket. Then, the divorce resolves through several routes. For instance, the judge may grant the divorce by default. After 30 days (also the timeline of the state’s cooling-off period under Alabama law), they may issue a divorce decree granting the filing spouse everything they asked for in their petition.
You Can Explore Your Legal Options With a Divorce Attorney
If you receive notice that your spouse filed for divorce or may, you should contact a local divorce law firm to discuss this process, your options, your next steps, and more. You will want to do this as soon as possible. With the heaviness of emotions and stress of facing a major life change, it may take some time to make the first move in your case.
Your law firm will understand the challenges you face and treat you with compassion and understanding. They can learn your story and hear your voice regarding your marriage, what you want, and how you feel about navigating the process.
When you hire a lawyer early in the process, you can have someone on your side who can protect your rights from start to finish. They help you understand the process and can stand by your side at every step.
Your Alabama divorce attorney may:
- Assess and analyze your case and legal options
- Review the petition
- Gather evidence to document assets and debts, and other necessary evidence
- Build a case to support your preferences in property division, child custody, and more
- Advocate for you throughout this process
- Work to negotiate a settlement, if possible
- Help you understand the possible outcomes
- Represent you to your spouse, their attorney, the judge, and others
Having an attorney well-versed in cases like yours can be helpful to an Alabama divorce case. For example, if you have high assets, high debts, a partner in the military, or other unusual circumstances, a lawyer can help you navigate all of these details.
Your attorney may offer options to help you move forward with your case and secure favorable decisions on your behalf in court.
This could include decisions related to:
- Keeping the marital home
- Dividing assets, collections, and accounts
- Paying shared debts
- Obtaining alimony, sometimes called spousal support
- Receiving physical and legal child custody or visitation with your minor children
Your lawyer understands that a divorce can be emotional. They want to honor your voice. They want to protect your rights and ensure you can provide for your future.
You must act as quickly as possible to provide the court with a response, evidence, and other documents to prove you deserve custody, your desired share of the property, and more. Your law firm staff understands the challenges of your position and can help you take steps to get you the assets, property, and access to your children you need to build a strong, new life in the future.
What if My Spouse and I Decide Not to Divorce?
Speak with your partner about their petition if you oppose the divorce. One reason Alabama law has a waiting period before the judge grants a decree is that people sometimes change their minds. Their partner convinces them to give it another try, and they reconcile.
If this happens in your case, you cannot just forget about the petition to divorce. The filing spouse needs to contact their lawyer as soon as possible. Alabama law allows you to withdraw the petition for divorce at any time between filing it and the issuance of the divorce decree. After the court issues a decree, you cannot nullify the order.
Appealing a Divorce in Alabama
If you do not oppose the divorce but feel unhappy with the decree or find an issue with it, you have a short window to appeal the decision. Successful appeals stem from an issue with how the judge applied the law during the divorce process, trial, or in their ruling. Not liking the outcome does not offer sufficient grounds to overturn the decision.
Your attorney may handle appeals in family law cases. They may be able to build a strong appeal and submit your appeal to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals for review. This process takes several months or longer in many cases.
If you believe the appellate court ruled in error, you can also ask the Alabama Supreme Court to review the case. This body chooses the cases it hears and will only review your case if it believes it offers a significant and applicable look at a unique situation.
An Attorney Can Help You Explore Your Options
You may oppose a divorce, although it will likely be difficult. You don’t have to be alone during this process. An Alabama divorce lawyer may be able to help you achieve your goals and seek the best possible outcome in your divorce case. Your legal team can guide you through the process from start to finish, protecting your rights and fighting to ensure everyone involved hears your voice.
Law firms offer no-obligation consultations so you can ask your initial questions about your options for a divorce. You can also learn more about how a law firm can assist families facing divorce.