Which State Does the Divorce Have to be Filed in?
Once you decide you are ready to get divorced, you may have many questions about the process. One common question among clients is if they must file for divorce in the same state as the marriage. You do not have to get married in Alabama to file for divorce in this state, but you have to meet the residency requirements.
A divorce lawyer can help you determine in which state(s) you can file for divorce. Many law firms offer no-obligation evaluations where you can get more information about the divorce residency requirements and learn how to proceed.
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Understanding Alabama’s Residency Requirements
The residency requirements to file for divorce in Alabama determine how long each spouse must live in the state. The amount of time you must live in Alabama before filing depends on the length of residency in the state.
If you and your spouse are both residents of Alabama, you can get divorced at any time. There is no requirement for how long you must live in Alabama to get divorced.
Per Alabama state law, you must live in Alabama for at least six months before filing for divorce against a nonresident spouse. As an Alabama resident, you must file for divorce instead of your spouse.
How Do I File For Divorce in Alabama?
Filing for divorce can be complicated if you do it on your own. Even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have an amicable relationship, unexpected issues can cause tension. An attorney will help guide you through the divorce process from start to finish. A divorce lawyer can also advocate for you during asset division, child support, and child custody negotiations.
The steps to file for divorce in Alabama include:
- Find the right divorce court. An attorney can help you find the appropriate court to file for divorce. This could be in a county circuit court where you and your spouse resided, although this may not be the case for every divorce.
- File the divorce complaint. An attorney can help ensure that you file and fill out the complaint correctly. The complexity of your case can determine what complaint forms you fill out. After you file the complaint, your spouse must submit an answer to this complaint.
You Must Provide the Grounds for Divorce
Alabama requires you to list the grounds for divorce in your complaint.
According to the Code of Alabama, the grounds you could list for divorce include:
- If either party commits adultery (adultery is voluntary sexual relations between a married person and someone other than their spouse)
- If either spouse was “physically and incurably incapacitated” when entering into the marriage
- One spouse abandons the other by leaving for a year or more
- When one spouse is imprisoned for at least two years (with a sentence of seven years or more)
- When one spouse becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs
- If the wife becomes pregnant without the husband’s knowledge and the husband is not the father
- When one spouse commits a crime against nature before or after marriage
- When one spouse is in a mental hospital for five or more successive years (a doctor must diagnose them as incurably insane after performing a complete examination)
- If either spouse engages in violent behavior against the other
Even if you and your spouse are simply incompatible, you can file for divorce. If you have another sign for divorce, an attorney can review your options and help you determine the grounds for filing.
You Must Meet the Residency Requirements
Even if your marriage occurred outside of Alabama, you could still file for divorce in the state if you meet the residency requirements. Remember that if you file for a divorce but your spouse does not live in Alabama, you must live in Alabama for six months before you can file.
You Must Adhere to the Waiting Period
After filing for divorce, you must obey the waiting period before the judge can finalize your divorce.
Per the Code of Alabama:
- A court cannot enter a final judgment of divorce until 30 days after the divorce filing date expires.
- The court can still inflict any necessary temporary orders before the waiting period ends. Temporary orders may include custody arrangements, visitation, exclusive occupancy of the home, or restraining orders on either party.
Many states have a waiting period to give couples time to cool off after filing for divorce. Divorce is a complicated matter, both emotionally and financially. Waiting periods give couples time to reflect if they genuinely want to end their marriage.
Alabama Also Has a Waiting Period for Remarrying
While there is a waiting period for divorce, there is also a waiting period for remarriage once a judge finalizes the divorce. Alabama law states that divorcing couples cannot get remarried—except to each other—until 60 days after a judge enters the divorce judgment. Neither party can remarry during the appeals process if either party appeals the ruling.
If either spouse gets married in Alabama within the 60-day restriction period, their new marriage is void. However, marriages outside of Alabama during this period are typically valid.
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Types of Alabama Divorces
In Alabama, the type of divorce you have can play a major role in the cost of your divorce and the time it will take to complete. When it comes to divorce, both sides involved will need to make many big decisions. Whether they are about asset division, custody arrangements, or financial support, the spouses need to agree.
Sometimes, spouses can agree on their own. Other times, the spouses cannot agree on certain issues and will need to negotiate or go to court to resolve them.
An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on all the issues. An uncontested divorce is usually faster than a contested divorce because both parties do not need extra time to negotiate. In addition, uncontested divorces can generally settle outside of court.
These divorces are also usually less expensive than a contested divorce for the same reason. Attorneys who charge for their time tend to be cheaper since uncontested divorces take less time.
An uncontested divorce gives the spouses more control over what happens to their children, assets, and more. For example, the two parties can decide on custody terms and who gets what during the division of property.
A contested divorce is when the two parties do not agree on all issues. These divorces can require extensive negotiations along with the possibility of going to court. If the case goes to court, a judge is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the two parties.
In contested divorces, the two parties have less control over what happens to their children, assets, and more. For example, both parties may want someone to keep the house, but the judge could rule the couple has to sell the house and split the proceeds. Or both parties may want sole custody of their children, but the judge could order that they share custody 50/50. The two parties must adhere to the judge’s ruling, even if they both disagree.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Alabama Divorces
How Do I Start the Divorce Process?
The first step in the divorce process is filing for divorce. A divorce attorney can guide you through the legal steps of filing for divorce. You can hire a divorce attorney to handle your entire case or simply review documents, although having an attorney manage your entire case often makes the process easier.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost?
The cost of a divorce depends on the circumstances. As mentioned above, contested divorces are usually more expensive than uncontested divorces because of the amount of time it takes for an attorney to negotiate the division of property, custody arrangements, and more. The longer these negotiations take, the more costly attorney representation can be.
If the divorce ends up going to court, the attorney must also charge for their time to prepare your case and fight for you in court. Therefore, the faster the couple can resolve the issues in question, the less expensive the divorce will be. Every attorney’s fee basis is different, so inquire about payment ahead of time. Many law firms offer no-obligation evaluations that allow you to learn more about their services and fees.
If My Spouse Lives in a Different State, Where Can We Get Divorced?
In some cases, the spouse moved to a different state before or during the divorce proceedings. If this is the case, where you get divorced depends on you and your spouse’s residency. For example, in Alabama, the petitioner must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing.
What Is Legal Separation?
Some couples choose legal separation, rather than divorce. While similar, legal separation means that you and your spouse are still married, but you can still use this process to help divide assets and arrange child custody. You can discuss your options for separation or divorce with a lawyer as needed, and they can help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of these processes.
How an Attorney Can Help During a Divorce
Divorce attorneys can make the entire process easier.
A divorce attorney can take on many tasks and roles to help their clients:
- Explain grounds for divorce: Alabama lists the valid grounds for divorce (the reason why the couple is divorcing). An attorney can explain the options for grounds for divorce and help you choose what best fits your needs.
- Prepare divorce papers: You must send divorce papers to the proper court to initiate the divorce. A divorce attorney can properly prepare these documents and send them to the right court.
- Provide legal advice from an objective third party: Going through a divorce is usually an emotional time for everyone, and parties may make decisions on emotions rather than facts. An attorney can give objective advice to help you make the best decisions for you and your family.
- Locate all marital assets: A divorce attorney can help locate all assets related to a marriage, especially if one spouse is trying to hide them from the other. You need a clear financial picture when you begin dividing assets. A divorce attorney can also find all debts, so you know of them before asset division.
- Help with child support and custody: It is often emotionally challenging for both sides to negotiate child support and custody agreements. An attorney can help you develop a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests and negotiate a fair child support agreement.
- Assist with property division: An attorney can explain the property division process and how the law will treat property during divorce proceedings. If needed, an attorney can negotiate on your behalf to help you receive the property you want.
- Negotiate settlements: An attorney can advocate for a settlement agreement during the negotiation process. You can avoid going to court if you can settle.
- Represent you in court: If you and your spouse cannot settle, an attorney can represent you in court and advocate for you as a judge decides asset division, child support, child custody, alimony, and more.
Contacting an attorney as soon as possible can be a helpful first step toward moving on with your life. An attorney can take care of the legal matters so you can focus on finding your new normal.
Divorce Attorneys Can Help You Through This Complicated Process
An attorney can help you understand your divorce options if you and your spouse are in different states and any other factors relating to your divorce. Each state, including Alabama, has legal requirements you must follow to file for divorce.
Divorce lawyers can help you decide the best state to file your case in based on your circumstances and guide you through the entire process.