“Words are the essential tools of the law. In the study of law, language has great importance; cases turn on the meaning that judges ascribe to words, and lawyers must use the right words to effectuate the wishes of their clients. It has been said that you will be learning a new language when you study law, but it’s actually a bit more complicated.” – Sheila Hyatt, Law Professor, Sturm College of Law.
Unless you have studied law, or have a legal background, trying to read, understand and apply divorce laws to your particular situation would be at least as difficult to do as if they were written in a different language. Sure, there may be some pieces that you think you understand, but legal language is nuanced and words don’t always mean the same thing as they do in ordinary usage. “The legal meanings of words constitute the common language of lawyers and judges, who rely on this language to communicate efficiently and effectively,” said Hyatt.
So, assuming you don’t intend to go to law school before your divorce, how do you go about learning Alabama divorce laws?
Because of the specificity and precision of legal language depending on context and circumstance, here are a few ways NOT to learn about divorce laws:
- Advice from family and friends who have been through a divorce
- Read blogs by people who have been through a divorce
- Ask your friend to ask their friend who practices another type of law
- Rely on websites such as FindLaw
While sites like FindLaw have helpful information that can serve as a starting point, your absolute best resource for learning divorce laws will be a family law attorney.
The Best Way To Proceed In A Divorce
Finding a divorce lawyer who specializes in your type of situation will save you time and effort. Rather than sifting through the legalese and wondering if other peoples’ experience has any correlation to your own, an attorney can address your specific situation, educate you on exactly what you need to know, direct you to resources that will be helpful and applicable, and guide you through the process.
For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277
Most Important Alabama Divorce Laws
Assuming you want to understand Alabama Divorce Laws in-depth, what aspects of Alabama Divorce Law should you pay attention to?
Grounds For Divorcing In Alabama
If you don’t focus on any other aspects of learning Alabama divorce laws, at least know what the law says about filing for divorce. Generally, there are two grounds for filing in Alabama, namely; Fault and No-fault divorces. As the name suggests, no-fault divorce in Alabama doesn’t need to give a definite reason for divorce. You can file based on incompatibility or irretrievable breakdown of a marriage.
A fault divorce is based on another partner’s action. For instance, you can file a fault divorce when the reason behind the divorce is adultery, incurable incapacitation, habitual drunkenness, abandonment for a year or more, mental illness (resulting in institutionalization for 5 years straight or longer), imprisonment for two or more years for sentences lasting seven or more years, and a crime against nature, among other reasons related to the other spouse’s actions.
How To Divorce In Alabama
Once you have grounds for divorcing, you’ll need to know what the law says about the divorcing process. Generally, the law accounts for two main types. The first one is filing for uncontested divorce i.e., where both parties agree. The process begins in a person’s home county. Since different counties may have some unique requirements, you should check what your county’s court says about the divorcing process.
The law also requires divorcing parties in Alabama to agree on pertinent issues like custody, property division, alimony, etc., before a divorce process is finalized. When everything is agreeable, the divorce process can last a month.
If divorcing parties don’t agree, the law has guidelines for a contested divorce which requires a divorce attorney to represent the party’s interests. The process begins with one spouse filing and the other being served with divorce papers via the county sheriff or mail. The receiving spouse must respond within 30 days of being served.
The divorce process is followed by an important process called discovery which involves submitting all relevant information (from financials to other required documents). After discovery, you are expected to settle. If a settlement isn’t possible, the case will proceed to trial where a judge will decide on the case after hearing evidence and witnesses.
Property Division In Alabama
Alabama divorce laws have defined what is known as marital property and separate property. Generally, the law considers most property owned during a marriage to be marital property. Separate property is any property gotten before marriage as well as gifts and inheritance. Alabama divorce laws also protect property that is part of legal documents like prenups. Such property is treated as separate property. However, there are unique provisions for treating property differently.
Classification aside, it’s important to know the specifics of property division in Alabama in case of a divorce. Generally, the law encourages spouses to avoid courts. It is also faster and cheaper to do so. However, if parties can’t handle property division amicably, mediated settlements can be done. If that fails, property division is decided in court.
As an equitable property distribution state, judges focus on fair property division. 50/50 splits aren’t automatic. Many factors are considered ranging from the length of marriage to individual contribution.
Alimony & Child Support As Per Alabama Divorce Laws
Alabama divorce laws have provisions for income sharing models to establish child support. Generally, courts determine a family’s expenditure on child expenses when parents are together and split the resulting amount based on each parent’s income. As a result, the parent with a higher income will pay more.
Other factors like custody arrangements are also considered when setting the final child support amount. In many cases, noncustodial parents are the ones who pay support as it is assumed they are spending money directly by simply having custody of the child
Alimony is based on factors like the length of a marriage and factors such as how long the other spouse takes to get a job or become financially stable. There are limits to alimony payments to five years unless a spouse remains financially insufficient. In such a case, alimony payments last as long as the marriage lasted.
Retirement Account Treatment & Alabama Divorce Laws
According to Alabama divorce laws, retirement accounts like IRA and 401k accounts can be split via a court judgment or through an agreement. Divorce courts issue special orders that allow retirement account funds to be withdrawn and disbursed accordingly without incurring typical penalties and tax charges.
Military Divorce In Alabama
If you/your spouse are military service members, one spouse must be stationed or residing in Alabama. Grounds for seeking a military divorce in Alabama are mostly similar to those for civilians. You can pursue a no-fault or fault-based divorce with reasons including (but not limited to) habitual drunkenness, adultery, a spouse’s incurable incapacitation, abandonment for over a year, mental illness, imprisonment for over two years, crimes against nature, and cruelty.
However, military spouses have some protections accorded to them as per the SCRA. The Servicemembers Civil Relief law allows spouses to postpone divorce when overseas or when not in a position to respond appropriately to the petition because of military service commitments.
Summary: How Can I Learn Alabama Divorce Laws?
In a nutshell, the above information summarizes the most critical information about Alabama divorce laws. If you care to know the most important laws or aspects of Alabama divorce laws, we’ve summarized the basics above.
Generally, the law provides for two grounds of divorce, namely fault & no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce isn’t contested and therefore ends quickly and cheaply. On the other hand, a contested divorce attracts mediation or trial where terms are decided in court.
The laws governing property division, child custody, and related matters are also clear. However, there’s obviously more to Alabama divorce laws. What’s more, circumstances can change depending on the facts of individual cases. Instead of trying to learn Alabama divorce laws, you should hire an experienced Alabama divorce attorney instead to handle everything for you
At The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates, we do our job with excellence, so that you can focus on what’s most important. We know that you will have plenty of things to think about – kids, finances, housing – decisions to make, changes to adjust to, and more, so let us handle the technical stuff.
If you are in the military and considering divorce – hire an attorney who knows the drill. It’s not an easy process, but with the right family law attorney, you can leverage the ways that the situation is treated and come through the experience more financially prepared. Talk to a professional in The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates by calling us at (256) 769-0508 or contacting us through our contact form.