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What Is a Divorce by Default?

In Alabama, a divorce process begins when one divorcee files a complaint against the other. The other spouse must respond within 30 days. If the person who receives the complaint fails to respond, then a divorce by default occurs. During a default divorce, the party who initially filed for the divorce must appear in court. […]
What Is a Divorce by Default?

In Alabama, a divorce process begins when one divorcee files a complaint against the other. The other spouse must respond within 30 days. If the person who receives the complaint fails to respond, then a divorce by default occurs. During a default divorce, the party who initially filed for the divorce must appear in court. They’ll list their demands to the judge, and the judge will make an order to settle the matter.

Since the ex-spouse never responded to the divorce claim, they cannot dispute these demands. You must respond to a divorce claim as soon as you can. If a default hearing takes place, you can’t negotiate the terms of your divorce. Only the party who filed the divorce gets to testify in a default hearing. You can avoid this outcome by responding to a divorce claim and cooperating with your ex-partner through negotiations.

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Could a Divorce by Default Benefit Me?

Yes. If your spouse does not respond to your complaint within 30 days, you can request a divorce by default. This will allow you to shape the terms of your divorce without their legally admissible input.

What Other Types of Divorce Could I Expect?

Divorces take different forms in Alabama, including:

  • Uncontested divorce: When both parties agree on alimony, child custody, and other terms, they enter an uncontested divorce. These types of divorces may necessitate mediation. During mediation, both parties can work to iron out their divorce’s details. Uncontested divorces usually prove the cheapest and fastest option.
  • Contested divorce: A contested divorce happens when one party doesn’t agree with the other party’s demands. The divorce may go before a judge if the couple cannot negotiate the legal details in mediation or through their attorneys. In the divorce trial, both parties will express their demands before a county circuit court judge, who will decide the outcome. Once the judge settles the divorce, they will issue a decree, and the spouses will officially separate.

How Do I File for a Divorce?

Before filing for a divorce, you must check to see that your case meets Alabama’s residency requirements.

Per Alabama law:

  • You can file for a divorce immediately if both spouses have legal residency in Alabama.
  • If you and your spouse aren’t legal residents of Alabama, you must wait six months to gain residency status.
  • If you don’t have legal residency in Alabama, but your spouse has residency status, you can file for a divorce.

Establishing Grounds for Divorce

If you meet Alabama’s divorce residency requirements, you must establish the grounds for your divorce.

You could file for divorce if:

  • Your spouse behaved violently toward you or your children.
  • Your spouse developed an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
  • Your spouse abandoned you for a year or more.
  • Your spouse cheated on you.
  • Your spouse was in prison (for at least two years of the past seven).

This does not reflect a complete list of potential grounds for divorce. A lawyer can advise you on other grounds.

Notably, the above examples include fault-based divorce grounds, meaning your spouse’s inappropriate behavior caused your marriage’s breakdown. In these cases, you could receive a larger share of alimony and a greater portion of child custody.

However, Alabama also allows plaintiffs (those pursuing a divorce) to file no-fault divorces. No-fault claims can trigger the uncontested divorce process. During this process, you and your partner can separate amicably and negotiate the terms of your divorce without conflict. As noted earlier, uncontested divorces often prove less expensive and time-consuming than no-fault divorces.

Two possible grounds for no-fault divorce include:

  • Your marriage suffered from an irretrievable breakdown—meaning there’s nothing you can do to repair your marriage.
  • You and your spouse have incompatible personalities.

Filing Divorce Papers

Next, you will need to file your divorce papers.

In Alabama, this requires the following documentation:

  • Your and your spouse’s name
  • The date of separation
  • Stated grounds for divorce
  • Your children’s information, such as Social Security numbers and birth certificates
  • The location and date of your marriage
  • Proof of residency, if applicable

A divorce lawyer can assist you with this process. They can gather the necessary documentation and serve the divorce complaint to your spouse.

Will a Prenup Affect My Divorce?

Yes, the existence of a prenup—shorthand for a prenuptial agreement—will impact your divorce proceedings. Prenups are legally binding agreements. They dictate how your shared finances and other common points of dispute work if a separation occurs, either through death or divorce.

These agreements apply to:

  • The separation of finances
  • Alimony
  • Debts
  • Inheritance
  • Division of assets, which includes pets

If you previously agreed to a prenup, this agreement will guide the outcome of your divorce.

Prenups can prove beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Reduces arguing during a divorce: Divorces often culminate in arguments over finances and shared child custody. With a prenup, you and your spouse will have less to argue about. This can benefit you and your children by preventing a breakdown in your relationship with your ex-spouse.
  • Establishes trust: Couples don’t get prenups because they intend to get divorced. Rather, they get prenups to account for the uncertainty of the future. Some couples drift apart after spending years together. Prenups encourage trust and allow you to have a positive relationship with your ex-spouse, even after divorce.
  • Debt protection: Individuals in a relationship can take out personal loans and other forms of debt. Without a prenup, either or both spouses may need to share this debt after a divorce. You could be saddled with your partner’s debt if you don’t sign a prenup, even if you had no hand securing their loans.
  • Financial protection: When establishing a prenup, you and your partner will agree on mutual assets. In a future divorce, you will split these assets. On the other hand, if you’d like to protect some portion of your assets, like inheritance, you can do so with a prenup.

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How Is a Postnup Different From a Prenup?

On paper, postnups look similar to prenups. However, you sign a postnup after you get married rather than before. The advantage to a postnup is that it allows both partners to consider their position in a relationship before agreeing to a legally binding contract.

What Aspects of Divorce Do Not Get Covered By a Prenup?

Prenups and postnups don’t apply to all legal aspects of a divorce, including:

Common Misconceptions About Postnups and Prenups

People may view prenups negatively for many reasons. Some might say they’re only for men or wealthy people. In reality, though, prenups offer couples a useful tool. If used mindfully, they can alleviate some of the stresses associated with marriage.

A few common misconceptions about prenups include:

  • They only benefit men: Historically, men out-earned women. In the past, then, prenups often allowed men to protect their assets. The wage gap is closing, though. Many women earn more than romantic partners now. Similarly, prenups can protect both spouses, not just one party.
  • Prenups lead to divorce: Prenups don’t necessarily lead to divorce. Rather, they force the couple to address tricky issues—like shared finances—early on. Speaking about challenging issues can build trust and strengthen a relationship.
  • You can keep all your assets in a divorce without a prenup: People who earn more than their partners often assume that they get to keep all their assets during a divorce, even without a prenup. However, courts deem many assets as shared property in marriage. Even in non-confrontational divorce proceedings, judges frequently split couples’ shared assets down the middle. Prenups can prevent judges from doing this.
  • Only rich people need prenups: Prenups can prove useful for anyone. These agreements can be cheaper than the potential losses you could suffer if you don’t obtain one.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony refers to financial support paid from one spouse to another during a divorce. This payment can continue after the divorce settles, as well. To request alimony, one party must prove that they require necessary and reasonable support. Both men and women can request alimony. Typically, the higher earner pays out alimony to the lower earner in a relationship.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Alimony can last for a range of periods. For example, a spouse can get temporary alimony during divorce proceedings, while other alimony payments continue after a divorce finalizes. Depending on each party’s finances, you can adjust these payments over time.

Entering a new marriage or securing a high-paying job can cause a reduction in alimony payments. Similarly, if the party paying alimony loses their job or cannot pay as much support, they can revisit the arrangement.

Who Benefits From Alimony Payments?

In some relationships, one spouse earns a significantly higher income. This arrangement typically allows the other party to have time for unpaid housework, like completing chores or raising children. In a divorce, the homemaker may be left without enough finances to support themselves. Alimony allows the lower-earning partner to avoid bankruptcy after a divorce.

What if I Believe That My Ex-Partner No Longer Needs Alimony?

In this case, you’ll need to file a motion with a relevant circuit court judge.

They’ll review the facts of your case, including:

  • The age of you and your partner
  • You and your partner’s financial resources
  • Your ability to continue to pay alimony
  • Your partner’s need for alimony
  • Both parties’ physical and mental conditions
  • The standard of living you both shared during your marriage

These proceedings often prove complex. A lawyer can investigate your case and support you during alimony negotiations—regardless of where you are in the divorce process.

How Does Military Employment Impact Divorce Proceedings?

Military employment alters and complicates divorce proceedings.

Service members can receive:

  • Disability retired pay
  • Combat-related special compensation
  • Veterans’ Affairs disability compensation
  • And more

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act allows a non-military spouse to receive a portion of the service members’ retirement pay and other benefits during a divorce.

If My Ex-Spouse Was in the Military, What Benefits Will I Receive?

It depends on the context of your divorce proceedings.

However, you could seek:

  • A portion of their retirement pay
  • Access to military healthcare facilities
  • Access to military exchanges and commissaries

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to File for a Divorce?

Hiring a lawyer is always your choice. Divorce matters often prove complex. A lawyer can help you in several ways.

Assistance With Amicable Divorces

Not all divorces result in fighting. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t complicated or time-consuming, though. Drafting a divorce agreement often involves considerable commitment. You and your ex-partner will need to iron out the details of your divorce.

If you hire a lawyer, you can delegate the task of finalizing your divorce. They’ll hammer out the details while you and your partner focus on maintaining a healthy post-marriage relationship.

Protect Your Assets

A divorce lawyer can fight for your financial well-being. Contested divorces can put your livelihood at risk. If you’re unsure how to proceed, you might end up saddled with your partner’s debt or have less access to your kids. Similarly, you may not realize that you are entitled to certain assets, such as a portion of your partner’s retirement plan.

A lawyer can advise you on:

  • Child custody
  • Asset division
  • Alimony and child support

Answer the Hard Questions

Divorces rarely prove straightforward. They can get mired in complex Alabama state law. You can approach these proceedings with confidence and clarity with a lawyer by your side. They can provide you with concise answers to all your legal questions.

Founder & CEO, Charlotte Christian

Get Help From a Divorce Lawyer Today

Divorces often feel painful and confusing. However, a divorce lawyer can guide you throughout the entire process—from start to finish.

A lawyer can have your back. They can help you resolve child custody issues or initiate divorce proceedings. They can also explain your rights and options during a divorce by default. Contact a divorce lawyer’s team for a no-obligation case review today.

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