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The Key Steps in Filing for an Alabama Divorce

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Alabama Laws Divorce Law
This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.
divorce process alabama

Divorce is an incredibly common experience for many Americans. However, those looking to get divorced might not know the steps for having legal proceedings. The process may appear simple, yet it can be complex.

Here are the basic steps for filing a divorce in Alabama that you’ll find invaluable if you want to increase your chances of having your divorce proceedings go as smoothly as possible. As when it comes to filing for divorce, knowledge is power!

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The Complete Process for Getting a Divorce in Alabama

Ensure That You Meet The Strict Residency Requirements

First, you must meet the residency requirements. If both spouses live in Alabama, then a divorce can be filed at any time. If the spouse filing for divorce lives in Alabama but the other spouse does not, then the filing spouse must have been a resident for at least six months. So be sure that you meet the residency requirements to legally file for divorce in Alabama before you think about having divorce papers written up.

Choose A Legally Accepted Reason To File For Divorce

You must also have a legally acceptable reason to end your marriage. In Alabama, this can include adultery, abuse, or addiction. There are twelve total grounds for divorce.

Do keep in mind that if you can prove that your marriage ended through no fault of your own, you’ll have a higher chance of receiving a larger share of the assets which you accumulated as a couple than if you choose to file for a no-fault divorce. Especially if you can prove that your ex-partner was committing adultery, abuse, or addiction-related issues.

If you feel that there is just simple incompatibility, then Alabama does allow no-fault divorce. If you wish to file for a divorce in Alabama and neither you nor your spouse has engaged in behavior such as adultery or abuse, you may be interested in filing for a no-fault divorce.

In the state of Alabama, there are actually two acceptable circumstances in which you can file for a no-fault divorce. 

The first is if there has been an irretrievable breakdown in your marriage, which means that your marriage is past the point of repair. While simply incompatibility is the second reason you can give for choosing to file a no-fault divorce. If you have grown apart since you exchanged your wedding vows and are no longer in love, you can file for a no-fault divorce by citing incompatibility as the main reason you wish to legally divorce your spouse.

One of the main reasons why you may want to consider filing for a no-fault divorce is that they are usually quicker to process as you are not required to prove that your marriage isn’t working. Whereas, if you blame your spouse’s behavior for your divorce, you may be legally required to provide evidence of your accusations in order to have your marriage terminated.

File Your Divorce Papers

After meeting the residency requirements and grounds for divorce, you may then file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. Divorce papers can include the stated reason for divorce, custody arrangements for children, division of debts and property, etc. In order to increase your chances of having your preferred division of assets and custody arrangements accepted by the courts, it’s important to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer before you file your divorce papers. If you choose to entrust our team of divorce experts to handle your divorce proceedings, we’ll be able to assist you in obtaining your ideal outcome for your divorce.

If your spouse fails to respond to the divorce papers which they have been served, within a set period of time, they will risk losing all of your shared assets to you. So, rest assured that it’s highly unlikely that your spouse will choose to ignore the divorce papers which they have been served.

Do keep in mind that it’s important to have a divorce lawyer who you can trust on call, after this crucial step as there is a large chance that your spouse may choose to serve you with opposing divorce papers.

Opposing Divorce Papers

If the spouse being filed disagrees with any part of the divorce papers, then they will have the opportunity to file opposing papers. This is called a contested divorce. For this type, both of you will have to make a series of court appearances to handle the divorce. For example, if you share children with your spouse and in the terms of your divorce papers you demanded full custody of your children, your spouse may contest your divorce in order to seek full custody or shared custody of your children.

As another example, if you believe that you have a right to more than 50% of the house which you brought together and stated this in your divorce papers, your spouse may not be happy with the proposed split of your marital property and may file opposing divorce papers. In their opposing divorce papers, they may choose to ask for 50% of your shared marital assets or they may opt to ask for a larger share of your assets, in retaliation for the terms which you stated in your original divorce papers. For this reason, it’s often a wise choice to be fair, when drafting up your divorce papers.

However, if you offered fair divorce terms in your divorce papers, there is a possibility that your soon-to-be ex-spouse will accept the terms of your divorce agreement. If they choose to accept your terms, your divorce will be finalized with little fuss.

The Division Of Assets & Child Custody Agreements

After this, property division, child custody, and alimony are sorted out. This is either done in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. This is negotiated throughout the divorce process, or by a judge. If you want to finalize your divorce as soon as possible, you may want to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the help of a divorce lawyer or a mediator.


Please note that if you attempt to complete your divorce proceedings through a mediator and are unable to reach a conclusion that both parties are satisfied with, you can decide to proceed by going to court and letting a judge decide on a final verdict for your divorce. It’s not uncommon for individuals to agree on mediation to end up in court due to disagreements. Especially when the custody of children and the division of assets are involved in a divorce.

The 20/20/20 Rule & How It Affects Military Spouses

If you are currently a military spouse, were a military spouse for at least 20 years, or served in the US military while married, you may be keen to find out how the 20/20/20 rule could directly influence the terms of your divorce. 

The 20/20/20 rule is the same as the previous one, but with added benefits. To qualify for the benefits which are stipulated by the 20/20/20 rule, you’ll need to have spent 20 years of your life married to an active serviceman or woman while they were working in the US military.

So if you were married to a US serviceman or woman for 20 years but your spouse only actively served for 10 years during your marriage, unfortunately, you will not be eligible to receive military retirement benefits.

Under this rule, the civilian member receives access to retirement benefits, medical care for life, as well as base privileges. This means that if you were married to a member of any branch of the US military, you’ll still have access to valuable retirement benefits, lifelong medical care, and base privileges. If you served in the US military and your spouse spent 20 years as a military spouse, both you and your former spouse will be eligible to enjoy military retirement benefits. Please note that your ex-spouse being able to continue receiving military benefits, will not affect your own military benefits.

For more detailed information on how the 20/20/20 rule may apply in your particular set of circumstances, it’s well worth getting in touch with a member of our friendly, knowledgeable team.

The Judgment Of Divorce

The last part of divorce comes when the judge signs the judgment of divorce. This ends the marriage and summarizes the specifics of post-marriage life. Keep in mind that if your divorce case goes to court, the judge’s decision will be final and you will no longer be able to contest aspects of your divorce once you have been issued with your judgment of divorce.

For example, if the judge who is tasked with presiding over your case decides to give both you and your former partner joint custody of your children, you will need to accept the judge’s decision. If the judge makes this ruling and you try to prevent your former spouse from seeing your kids, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble.

As another example, if you acquired several properties with your ex-partner which were classified as marital properties and the judge decided to give your ex-partner the full legal ownership of a property that you wanted, you will no longer be able to contest the ownership of this property. Instead, you’ll have to make do with the property or properties which the judge granted you instead. If the judge decides to split the ownership of each of your marital properties you may want to consider selling these properties and splitting the proceeds in order to finalize your divorce.

If you are interested in dating again or are already dating someone new, who you see as a potential future husband or wife, it’s worth mentioning that once your judgment of divorce is finalized, you’ll be legally free to remarry.

In Conclusion

Divorce doesn’t have to be scary, and you don’t have to do it alone. If you are looking into getting a divorce, you want someone who is going to be on your side. Find an attorney that will go to bat for you both in and out of court. We will fight for you.

Experience the Charlotte Christian difference. Connect with us by phone at (256) 769-0508, or online.

No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed by The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

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