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Do Both Parties Have to Agree to a Divorce in Alabama?

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Divorce Law
Post Author Image This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.
do both parties have to agree to divorce

Divorce is never a couple’s goal when they get married, but sometimes the marital relationship develops insurmountable problems. Perhaps one spouse thinks they need to move on, and the other wants to stay married and work on the issues.

You may be wondering if you can get a divorce if both parties don’t agree that it is necessary. Under Alabama law, the spouse who wants a divorce can take action to get a divorce even if the other spouse disagrees.

Learn how our experienced Huntsville, Alabama divorce lawyers can assist you by calling (256) 859-7277 or filling out our online form today. We offer free, no-obligation consultations.

Do Both Parties Have to Agree to a Divorce?

You may wonder, does divorce have to be mutual? Just because a marriage is mutual does not mean a divorce must be mutual. One spouse cannot force the other to stay married. Nor will a judge force someone to stay married if they take the proper legal steps to get a divorce. 

If the spouse who files for divorce follows the proper procedures under Alabama law, they will be able to get a divorce regardless of whether the other spouse agrees. The divorce may take longer if the other spouse refuses to respond to the divorce papers or fights the case. But one way or another, as long as the spouse filing the divorce petition proves their case, they will eventually get a divorce.

The Divorce Process in Alabama

To understand what happens when one spouse doesn’t want a divorce, learning some of the basic procedures involved in an Alabama divorce can be helpful.

The Divorce Petition

First, the spouse seeking the divorce must file a divorce petition. In the petition, the spouse must state that they are a resident of Alabama and the legal reason, or grounds, for wanting a divorce. 

Under Alabama law, there are many grounds for divorce, including:

  • Adultery, 
  • Physical or mental incapacity at the time of marriage,
  • Abandonment for a year or more,
  • Imprisonment for longer than two years and the sentence is at least seven years,
  • One spouse committed a “crime against nature,”
  • A spouse has a substance abuse problem, and
  • Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship.

There are several other grounds for divorce as well. But the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the most common ground for divorce and possibly the easiest to prove when one spouse refuses to cooperate. The spouse filing the papers must only show that they believe the marriage has broken down with no hope of reconciliation to get a divorce. 


The spouse must serve the petition on the other spouse in a way specified under Alabama law. They must have someone over 18 years of age who is not a party to the divorce serve the papers. 

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Basically, an uncontested divorce is one where both spouses agree to the divorce and all its terms, such as property division, child support, and child custody.

Suppose you both have agreed to all the terms, completed a marital settlement agreement, signed the agreement, and submitted it with your divorce petition. In that case, you could get a quick and relatively simple uncontested divorce. 

You may wonder, do both parties have to sign divorce papers? For an uncontested divorce, you must both sign the agreement.

If the recipient’s spouse wants to fight the divorce, they won’t sign the divorce papers. Instead, they’ll file a response where they state why they disagree with the petition. The court will set the case for a court date and, eventually, a trial. This is called a contested divorce.

Seeking a divorce? Get advice from a qualified legal professional.

Can You Refuse a Divorce?

Yes, you can refuse a divorce in Alabama. However, refusing to agree to a divorce does not mean that you’ll prevent your spouse from getting a divorce. Instead, if you refuse to agree, your case will go to trial, where the judge will decide all outstanding issues. But a judge will not force your spouse to remain married to you just because you fight the divorce.

What Happens if My Spouse Doesn’t Respond to the Papers?

What happens when one spouse doesn’t want a divorce, so they don’t even respond to the divorce papers? This does not mean you’ll be trapped in the marriage forever. Instead, you can request a divorce judgment by default

In a default divorce, you file a motion with the court stating that your spouse received the divorce papers but didn’t respond by the 30-day deadline. The court then sets a trial date. At trial, the judge decides whether to grant the divorce.

They also decide all of the other terms of the divorce. If the nonresponding party does not show up, these decisions are based solely on the testimony of the spouse who appears in court.

Contact Our Office About Contested, Uncontested, or Default Divorces

As you can see, Alabama law and judges won’t force someone to stay in a marriage if they want out. However, a divorce where one spouse refuses to participate or cooperate can be very challenging.

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates understand Alabama divorce law and procedure. We will fight for the best interests of you and your family. Contact us online or call (256) 859-7277 today for a free consultation. 

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