Determining the appropriate grounds for divorce in Alabama may be tricky, but with a quality Huntsville divorce lawyer, you won’t need to tread these difficult times alone.
A plaintiff’s complaint about divorce must state the applicable Alabama grounds upon which a divorce is being pursued in Alabama. That ground can be one upon which the parties have agreed or can authenticate or one which the party who files for divorce can verify with the court.
Therefore, when choosing the grounds for your divorce, you should always remember that you must present adequate proof to the court that your marital state warrants a divorce by the grounds on which you are requesting the divorce to be granted.
The Grounds for Divorce in Alabama
The term grounds for divorce generally means the legal reason that the parties state as the cause of the end of their marriage. Spouses can only get divorced if their circumstances fit within one of the grounds listed under state law. If you are considering a divorce, you may wonder, What are the grounds for divorce in Alabama?
The Circuit Courts of Alabama have the power to divorce persons from the bonds of matrimony on the following grounds under Alabama Code § 30-2-1:
- Voluntary abandonment,
- Crime against nature,
- Irretrievable breakdown,
- Separation for two years,
- Domestic violence, and
- The wife’s pregnancy before the marriage without the husband’s knowledge or agency.
Incompatibility and irretrievable breakdown are considered “no-fault” grounds and are used most often. An irretrievable breakdown refers to the marriage being broken beyond repair, while incompatibility means the spouses no longer get along. Below, we explain each of these grounds in more detail.
A spouse can file for a divorce based on incapacity if they can show that they were “physically and incurably incapacitated” when they entered the marriage. This means that they were not physically capable of doing something essential to the marital relationship on the day they were married. An example would be if the spouse cannot have sexual relations.
Something to note about this Alabama grounds for divorce is that it can also be grounds for an annulment. In an annulment, you claim that the marriage should be legally voided instead of a divorce that legally ends a valid marriage.
One of the most well-known fault-based grounds for divorce in Alabama is adultery. Adultery is when a spouse has sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse. Remember that although you may suspect infidelity, you will need evidence to support this ground, which can be difficult to secure. A court can decrease an unfaithful spouse’s share of the marital property in certain situations where a spouse proves infidelity.
Voluntary abandonment as grounds for divorce means that your spouse has been absent from the marital home and your relationship for more than one year. Essentially, voluntary abandonment is when a spouse leaves the marriage without the other spouse’s consent. However, you must prove that they left and discontinued the relationship. If the relationship continued even though the spouse moved out, then the grounds for abandonment are not satisfied.
Imprisonment is another fault-based ground for divorce. Your spouse must be incarcerated for at least two years and have a minimum sentence of seven years. For example, if your spouse is convicted of a crime with a sentence of 15 years to life, you can file for divorce on this ground after they’ve served two years. However, if they’re convicted of a crime where the sentence could be up to seven years, but they’ll be eligible for parole after three years, you may not be able to satisfy the requirements.
Crimes Against Nature
“Crimes against nature” as grounds for divorce are ill-defined under Alabama law. Historically, this ground was used when a spouse had a same-sex affair or concealed their true sexual orientation. But times have changed, and nowadays, these behaviors would potentially fall under the ground of adultery above. Additionally, concealing your true sexual orientation may be the basis for an annulment.
A spouse can use the other spouse’s addiction as grounds for divorce. The law specifically lists that a spouse’s addiction to “opium, morphine, cocaine, or other like drugs” would fall within this ground for divorce. Addiction for these purposes includes not only drug addiction but also habitual drunkenness. This ground for divorce may also affect that spouse’s child custody determination.
Incompatibility of temperament is one of Alabama’s no-fault grounds for divorce. This means neither party is to blame for the end of the relationship. For incompatibility, you generally must allege that you and your spouse do not get along to the point that you cannot live together any longer. You don’t need to prove anything specific as you would in a fault-based ground for divorce.
A spouse’s mental health can lay the framework for this ground for divorce in Alabama. However, it’s not as simple as alleging that a spouse has a mental health issue. Instead, they must be confined to a mental hospital for five successive years. Additionally, the spouse filing on this ground must get a certification from a doctor that their spouse’s mental instability is incurable when the divorce is filed.
Irretrievable breakdown is another no-fault ground for divorce in Alabama. For this ground, a spouse must allege that the marital relationship is broken and there’s no hope for reconciliation or repair. As with incompatibility, a spouse doesn’t need to prove any specific instance for this divorce ground.
Separation for Two Years
If the spouses have lived apart for two or more years, one can file for divorce on the ground of separation. The law specifically states that it will grant the divorce in favor of the wife. However, it is most likely to grant the divorce in favor of the spouse who did not consent to the separation. One spouse must remain a resident of the state for the entire period of the separation.
If one spouse has been physically abusive, the victimized spouse may file for divorce under this ground. Included within this ground is when a spouse is actually physically violent, when a spouse endangers the victimized spouse, or when the victim has a reasonable apprehension of violence. This means that domestic violence grounds may include both physical and mental abuse.
Lastly, a spouse can file for divorce because the wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage. The innocent spouse must not have been aware of the pregnancy. This issue could also form the basis of an annulment.
General Information About Fault and No-Fault Divorce in Alabama
In Alabama, grounds for divorce fall into two basic categories—fault and no fault. Alabama’s most common grounds for divorce fall into the “no-fault” category. If pursuing a fault-based divorce, the plaintiff must present enough evidence to the court to prove the alleged grounds. Because the no-fault grounds are easy to confirm, a no-fault divorce is much easier to attain. However, the plaintiff may still be required to provide evidence of fault to assist an Alabama court in deciding on custody issues, co-parenting, support, and property division.
No-Fault Divorce in Alabama
All 50 states allow some type of no-fault divorce. Like some other no-fault states, Alabama does not require that spouses live separately before filing for divorce. Additionally, this type of divorce doesn’t require that either party submit evidence to prove liability. Either a claim of irretrievable breakdown or incompatibility is enough to be granted a divorce.
Fault-Based Divorce in Alabama
If you can file for a fault-based divorce if you want your divorce granted based on your spouse’s actions. Unlike a no-fault divorce, you will be required to provide substantial evidence to support your claim. Although this route may be more expensive and time-consuming, it can be advantageous if the spouse’s actions severely impacted you, like domestic violence or mental illness.
Once proven, this information can be considered when awarding custody, alimony, or divorce settlements. A court can financially compensate the innocent spouse when making these determinations. For example, a court can award a greater share of the marital property to the innocent spouse and can consider fault when determining alimony.
In some cases, both spouses may seek a fault-based divorce, and both are able to prove fault. The court will rule on which party is least at fault, and they will be granted the divorce. This is called comparative rectitude.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
Along with deciding whether you will pursue a fault or no-fault-based divorce, you must determine whether you and your spouse can agree on settlement terms like property, debts, custody, etc. In an uncontested divorce, both parties and their attorneys agree on all terms.
However, in a contested divorce, either party disagrees with one or more terms of the divorce or the divorce itself. In this case, you will have to attend hearings and/or mediations and potentially go to trial if the issue cannot be reconciled.
Divorce Requirements in Alabama
To legally file for divorce in Alabama, at least one party must be a resident and have lived in the state six months before filing. The serving party must file a complaint and summons with the county’s circuit court where the defendant resides to initiate the divorce proceedings.
After the receiving spouse has been served, they have 30 days to file an answer to the complaint. If they do not respond, the divorce can proceed without them, and the filing spouse may be granted a default judgment. Alabama also requires a 30-day waiting period after filing the complaint for the divorce to be final.
How Can an Alabama Divorce Lawyer Help You?
When you’re faced with divorce, an attorney on your side to help you fight for a fair settlement can be helpful. Whether you’re pursuing a fault or no-fault-based divorce, the laws governing these cases are difficult to navigate alone.
Our Alabama divorce attorneys understand the laws in-depth and can assist you from filing to finalization. We can advise you on the best way to pursue your case, help you gather needed evidence, and prepare you for the legal process. Although fault-based cases are rare, you put yourself at an advantage by hiring a divorce attorney.
Hire a Divorce Attorney Who Makes Your Story Front and Center
If you need help with a family law matter or have a question about the grounds for divorce in Alabama, reach out to Charlotte Christian Law. Our team is centered around goals that help you get through this difficult time.