The divorce process in Alabama is instituted by filing a complaint about divorce in court. Before one spouse can file for divorce, the law requires that one of the spouses should at least have lived in the state for the past six months. The Complaint for Divorce is filed with the circuit court in the county where the defendant’s spouse resides or where the couple resided at the time they separated. If the divorce is uncontested then either of the parties can file wherever they want to in the state.
Steps In The Divorce Process In Alabama
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Filing a complaint.
A Complaint for Divorce form is available online through the Alabama Administrative Office of Court’s website. This form must be filled out along with a Summons form. The filing spouse is designated as the Plaintiff while the other spouse is referred to as the Defendant.
The complaint must contain a legal ground for divorce. Under Alabama laws, divorce may be based on “fault” or “no-fault” reasons. There are two “no-fault” grounds: incompatibility and irretrievable breakdown.
Incompatibility simply means that the spouses find that they no longer agree on many things and the relationship has become unsustainable. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage means that things have caused the marriage to be broken and the spouses find it’s impossible to repair the relationship.
Grounds for divorce that involve “fault” are:
- Defendant spouse committed acts of domestic violence against the other.
- The wife concealed her pregnancy, caused by another man, from the husband at the time of their marriage.
- Impotence since the marriage started.
- Cheating or adultery by either spouse.
- Defendant voluntarily abandoned the plaintiff for at least one year, without the latter’s consent for no justifiable reason.
- A minimum of two years imprisonment for an offense with a sentence of up to seven years.
- Sexual deviancy or commission of crimes against nature, human or beast, before or after the marriage.
- Habitual drunkenness or substance abuse.
- The defendant was confined in a mental institution for a minimum of five years because of incurable insanity.
“No-fault” grounds are the most commonly used because they are very easy to prove. “Fault” grounds don’t have to be included in a divorce complaint in Alabama to protect the parties’ privacy, but evidence may be presented at trial. Experienced divorce attorneys think it wise to cover both bases and include “no-fault” grounds even if the complaint cites “fault” so that in the event that the fault is not proven, the divorce will still be granted based on another “no-fault” ground.
After the complaint is filed, the plaintiff needs to serve a copy of the complaint to the defendant. Service can be done in various ways, the easiest and most practical of which is that the defendant or the defendant’s attorney simply agrees to receive the service. The Acceptance of Waiver of Service will be signed by them upon receipt of the file. This form is also available in court.
There are also process server services where a sheriff or independent third party who is at least 19 years of age delivers the copy by hand to the defendant. It is the server that executes an Affidavit of Service as proof.
Refusal on the part of the defendant to accept the copy of the complaint is not a hindrance to service. The plaintiff can just mail the complaint through certified mail and the return of certification be used as evidence. Alternatively, the plaintiff can ask for leave of court to publish the divorce in a local newspaper.
Once service is achieved, the defendant is expected to respond by filing an Answer in court.
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Disclosure Of Financial Matters
Part of the divorce process is the division of property. In order to do this as painlessly as possible, financial disclosure of all assets and liabilities of both spouses. The court will require income verification for both parties and may require documents like payslips, a complete list of assets with detailed descriptions, a complete list of liabilities along with the details, income tax returns, bank and credit card statements, and any other document that will show the financial standing of the spouses. Concealing any financial information can lead to serious legal sanctions.
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In many cases, the issue of child custody is also resolved during the divorce. The spouses can either come to a custody agreement on their own or submit it to the court for resolution in case they cannot agree on the terms of custody. There are 5 types of child custody in Alabama:
- Sole Legal Custody – one parent is responsible for deciding all matters that involve the child.
- Sole Physical Custody – The child lives with one parent and the other only gets to visit.
- Joint Legal Custody – both parents share the responsibility of making major decisions in the child’s life.
- Joint Physical Custody – the child spends a lot of time with both parents and has frequent contact with both.
- Joint Custody – means having both Joint Physical and Joint Legal Custody of the child.
Alimony Or Spousal Support
While the divorce is pending, one party may request the court to grant temporary alimony or spousal support. This is financial support paid by one spouse to the other. Factors that are considered for an alimony award include:
- The financial status of both spouses and their standard of living during their marriage;
- The ability of each spouse to earn income and their possible future success;
- Age, sex, and social status of the spouses;
- How long the marriage lasted;
- Whether or not the spouses contributed to the cause of the divorce and to what degree.
After the divorce becomes final, alimony can be granted through a single large payment or lump sum, or through a payment plan, by installments. The same factors for temporary alimony are considered along with any other relevant issues that were settled in the divorce.
Once the supported spouse remarries or is openly living with another person in a romantic relationship, the alimony being paid by installments will be terminated.
Division Of Property
The State of Alabama follows the equitable distribution system when it comes to property division in a divorce. This means that all debts and assets are divided between the spouses in a just and fair manner. Equitable doesn’t necessarily mean equal. This means the court carefully weighs the division of property, considering various factors. These factors may include:
- Both spouses’ contributions to the marriage, financial or otherwise.
- The lifetime of the marriage.
- Both spouses’ earning capacity after the divorce is final.
- The fault of each spouse in the divorce.
- Childcare expenses that each spouse is expected to have.
Separate property, usually property owned by the spouses before marriage, is not divided in a divorce and each spouse will keep their respective separate property. Marital property, those assets acquired or earned by either spouse during the marriage will be divided equitably between the spouses.
Hiring A Divorce Lawyer In Alabama
In Alabama and in every other jurisdiction, a simple and peaceful divorce is ideal but is hardly ever the case. However, the parties can try to reach a good settlement by working together. It is important to remember that just because they are getting divorced that they would become bitter enemies. On the contrary, making the divorce as painless as possible saves them time and money. A financial settlement should be properly studied and evaluated to see what repercussions may arise in the future.
Engaging the services of a divorce lawyer definitely eases the entire process. Going through a divorce is painful and stressful. Losing a partner and having that unique and special bond cut off can have serious effects. The strain of legalities is pouring salt into the wound. A good divorce lawyer should be able to represent the client’s best interest while at the same time making sure that the process is as efficient as possible for both sides.
The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates is an award-winning Alabama law firm that focuses on Family and Divorce Law. They serve divorcing couples and their families by using an individualized approach, taking into consideration the fact that each family is unique. They work with various professionals like financial planners, property appraisers, psychologists, and many others, in order to provide their clients with the best options based on their individual needs.
If you are considering getting a divorce, remember that you don’t have to go through it alone. Consult with an experienced family and divorce lawyer to discuss your needs and get their opinion on the best course of action for you. You are already losing your family, don’t lose yourself in the process. Getting help is not just about getting any kind of help. It means getting the kind of help that is best suited for your situation. Go through the divorce process in Alabama with a trustworthy and passionate divorce lawyer who will fight for your rights and protect your family’s peace, as much as possible.