Are Lawyers Needed to Get a Divorce?
Alabama does not require hiring an attorney to get a divorce, but filing for divorce or modifying a previous order without legal representation is a terrible mistake that can cost you money, property, and child custody rights.
Working with an Alabama divorce lawyer comes with many other benefits, too. Having a lawyer walk you through the divorce process and represent your best interests through every step can prove especially important in any divorce, especially a fault-based or contested divorce.
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Alabama Divorce Lawyers Answer Questions and Provide Key Information
By hiring an attorney, you have someone who will provide knowledgeable, accurate information about the divorce process based on their experience and the specific details of your case. You need the information to make the right decisions for you, your children, and your future.
Your lawyer can offer advice and data about the outcome of similar cases. They may even know the judge in your case and have experience in their court. They know what the courts look for in your county in a divorce agreement and how they generally rule on questions around property division, alimony, child custody, and visitation.
Am Alabama divorce attorneys also answer questions that help you better understand the process and possible outcomes.
This could include:
- How much will it cost to get a divorce?
- How long does it take to get an Alabama divorce?
- What rights do I have as a plaintiff (or defendant) in a divorce case?
- How does Alabama divide property in a divorce?
- What factors does the court consider in child custody decisions?
- Will my divorce go to court?
- What issues do we need to resolve before getting a divorce?
- Can I keep the house or other assets?
- Who has to pay our debts?
- What legal grounds exist for divorce in Alabama?
- Can I get alimony?
When you hire a divorce attorney, you have an advocate on your side throughout the process. You can share your fears and concerns and get honest, confidential, and valuable information.
Your Attorney Navigates the Divorce Process for You
A divorce attorney can handle all the legal aspects of the case on your behalf. A lot of work goes into filing for a divorce—even when the spouses agree on how they will handle everything.
Both spouses should first review their agreements with their attorneys to ensure:
- They represent their best interests
- They fit within orders likely to get the judge’s approval
- They include all necessary topics
Your attorney can then submit all relevant paperwork in the appropriate format as the court wants to see it. They can also manage related tasks such as calculating child support based on the agreements, each parent’s income, and the state’s formulas. Your lawyer can then submit the agreement to the court and request approval. This often proves the fastest and easiest way to get a divorce.
With an attorney handling your uncontested filing, you have less risk that the court will reject your agreement based on a technicality, an issue with paperwork, or other similar problems. Divorce attorneys write these agreements and manage divorces every day. They know what the judges want to see.
The divorce attorney’s role is even more important when a couple disagrees. A lawyer can ensure that all involved parties hear their client’s voice—including their spouse and the judge. With a lawyer managing your divorce and guiding you through the process, you can focus on your children, your career, and your emotional and mental health.
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A Law Firm Protects Its Clients and Their Children During an Alabama Divorce
Divorce attorneys understand the difficulties you face making decisions during divorce. The challenges, stress, and emotions created by the process make it harder to make logical decisions, even if you have all the necessary information. However, every decision could affect many aspects of your life, including your and your children’s future.
When you work with a lawyer, you allow someone else to help you make decisions. They can offer advice and guidance, working as the voice of reason while you weigh your options and seek the best possible outcome based on the circumstances.
Consider these benefits of working with a lawyer:
- You may consider outcomes that you did not previously think about, such as getting alimony until you reestablish your career.
- You could have options to get what you want, such as the family home or certain assets, even if it feels hopeless.
- Your attorney may help you see the reality of the situation and how you can protect your children and financial future.
Your lawyer can protect your rights to a fair distribution of property and fight for the best outcome for you and your children. They also protect you from intimidation or other tactics your partner and attorney might use to take advantage of your emotions or situation. A law firm representing you can prevent you from agreeing to unfair settlements just to get the whole thing done or because you do not see another way out.
We believe no one should agree to any divorce settlement without first discussing it with an attorney who can assess their options, best interests, and ensure the agreement supports their client’s success and happiness in the future.
Your Lawyer Helps Settle Contested Issues in Your Divorce
It is ideal when two people can pursue an uncontested divorce, agree on all matters, and navigate the process to finalize it without argument. However, the reality often proves more complicated for many people. Their inability to agree may be one reason why they now seek a divorce. Many divorces have at least one contested issue at the outset. This could include:
Alabama has laws that ensure equitable distribution of assets and debts in a divorce. Under Alabama Code § 30-2-51 and § 30-2-52, all marital property gets dispersed fairly when two partners divorce. This is not necessarily an even split. Instead, the spouse with the higher income may assume more debt or the one who can afford to pay the mortgage may receive the house. However, the other partner will get their fair share, as well.
In some cases, neither spouse requests alimony. In others, alimony constitutes a primary demand of a dependent spouse who must finish school or find a job to support themselves financially. Alabama has clear laws about alimony, found under Alabama Code § 30-2-56 and § 30-2-57.
Alabama reserves long-term alimony for long-term marriages where one spouse sacrificed their career to care for the children or support their partner’s work. Interim spousal support during the divorce process or for a set period afterward may be possible in shorter marriages where one partner provided income for the household while the other managed the home.
As you probably expect, parents frequently contest child custody arrangements. However, Alabama law requires all agreements to consider joint legal custody under Alabama law. This means the parents share decision-making duties for their child’s education, medical care, and other vital topics.
They could also share parenting time, with each seeing the child or children often. However, one parent may serve as the primary residential parent for where they go to school. If the parents have joint custody but not equal physical custody, one parent may pay for their routine expenses and receive child support.
Alabama determines child support based on each parent’s income, the days spent with each, and additional related expenses, such as health insurance and childcare costs. The residential parent will likely receive child support from the other parent, even if they share the child with almost even visitation. Partners cannot agree on a child support amount. The court determines these payments.
How the parents split time with their child is often another hot topic in divorce. Gone are the days when mothers kept their children during the week and dads saw them every other weekend. The courts take much more interest in ensuring the child gets ample quality time with each parent and that each parent plays an active role in the child’s life.
A parenting plan will include details about the child’s everyday life during the school year, what happens in the summer, and what holidays they will spend with each parent.
Representing You During an Alabama Divorce
Most family court judges approve negotiated agreements on property division, custody, visitation, alimony, and other issues. However, these agreements must be complete and in line with Alabama law. Judges generally look for plans that align with what they might order based on the facts of your case.
Your divorce attorney guides you through the process of developing a plan for property division, child custody, and shared parenting time that the courts will approve. They understand the applicable laws and how the family courts—and often the judge overseeing your case—like to see these agreements. This often proves essential to getting your agreements approved and finalizing the divorce.
Of course, you have to reach these agreements first. Your attorney can manage this process, as well. They can discuss your options, necessary concessions, trade-offs to ask for, and other ways to agree on the contested items in your divorce. They may also put together offers to present to your spouse and their legal team or handle negotiations.
Will Mediation Help You Reach an Agreement?
Some courts require mediation and others only suggest the process for those who cannot settle on agreements on their own. Nevertheless, mediation commonly helps couples negotiate trade-offs and work on resolving some or all of the contested issues.
This process works by having a trained mediator as a go-between for each spouse and attorney. The mediator makes suggestions and tries to steer each party toward a compromise. However, they do not have the authority to decide on your behalf or force a compromise.
If you cannot agree during mediation, the court will put your case on the docket for trial.
What Happens During a Divorce Trial?
What occurs in the courtroom during a divorce trial greatly depends on the circumstances. In a fault-based divorce, the plaintiff will present evidence to prove the grounds before presenting a case about the contested topics. Your lawyer can plan and orchestrate this process. You may need to testify or otherwise participate, but your lawyer should prepare you for what to expect.
Once you and your attorney present your side of the story, your lawyer can represent you throughout the trial. Your attorney has an opportunity to question the defense and ensure they—and the judge—recognize your voice and the reasons behind your demands.
After both sides take a turn and offer closing statements, the judge will consider the case. They generally accept agreements on uncontested topics and then rule on the contested ones. Your attorney receives a notification of the decree, judgment, parenting plan, child support orders, and more when the court has them available. How long this takes depends on the individual court. Your lawyer may have a good idea from experience.
Hiring an Alabama Attorney to Help With Your Divorce
While you do not legally have to hire an attorney to get a divorce in Alabama, having one by your side guiding you through the process makes a stressful situation much easier. Your divorce lawyer provides representation, advocacy, and information from start to finish. In addition, many law firms offer a no-obligation evaluation, so you can get started today.