If you and your spouse choose to get a divorce, you may wonder if you need a divorce lawyer. While a divorce lawyer is not required, they can guide you through the process and help you reach a positive outcome.
While Alabama does not require hiring an attorney to get a divorce, filing for divorce or modifying a previous order without legal representation is a terrible mistake. This mistake can cost you money, property, and child custody rights.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates understand how difficult divorce can be. Having a lawyer guide you through the divorce process can prove invaluable in any divorce, especially a fault-based or contested divorce. Let our skilled attorneys protect your rights and help you fight for the best possible outcome.
What If My Divorce Is Amicable?
It is easy to feel like you don’t need a lawyer if your divorce is amicable. Even if you and your former spouse are getting along, there are still legal matters that need to be dealt with. For example, a divorce attorney will ensure all forms are filed within the appropriate time frame.
Many issues come up in a divorce, and to have an amicable divorce, you and your ex-spouse will have to agree on every issue. After you have made decisions about each issue, you will be required to present this documentation to the judge. If you use a divorce lawyer, they will speak to the judge on your behalf.
There is a lot of time that goes into drawing up divorce documentation. Without prior knowledge, this can be an exhausting process, and you could miss something that a lawyer could have easily handled. Having a divorce attorney will save you time and allow you to focus on preparing your future.
An Attorney Will Explain Alabama Divorce Requirements
Every state has different requirements for filing divorce paperwork, so it is helpful to have an attorney that is familiar with local laws. In the state of Alabama, there are several requirements regarding grounds for divorce, where you live, and how long you have to wait before proceeding with a divorce.
Grounds for Divorce
In Alabama, you must provide the court with the grounds for divorce.
According to Alabama Code § 30-2-1, those include:
- Voluntary abandonment from bed or board for one year before the complaint was filed,
- Imprisonment for two years, with the sentence being seven years or longer,
- Incompatibility of temperament that the judge agrees the parties can no longer live together,
- Becoming addicted after marriage to habitual drunkenness or drug use,
- An irretrievable breakdown of the marriage where further attempts at reconciliation are impractical,
- The wife was pregnant and the husband did not know about the pregnancy,
- One of the spouses has engaged in violence against the other and the abused spouse feels like their life or health is in danger.
Is it worth getting a divorce lawyer? In any divorce, but especially a contested or fault-based divorce, the answer is yes. Fault-based divorces can be complicated. We recommend discussing the best course of action with an experienced Alabama divorce lawyer rather than trying to pursue a fault-based divorce independently.
In Alabama, there are residency requirements to file for divorce. To file for divorce in this state, you or your ex-spouse must live in Alabama for six months.
According to Alabama Code § 30-2-8.1, there is a waiting period of 30 days from the date of filing for divorce for there to be a final judgment. Usually, a divorce will take longer than the 30-day waiting period.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Be Helpful When Negotiating Assets
If you have any assets that need to be protected, a divorce lawyer will fight for you during negotiations to keep them. If you have children or any of the following assets, a divorce lawyer can help you protect them.
These assets include:
Consulting with an attorney about what will happen to you or your spouse’s retirement after divorce will help you in the long run. If either party has a pension, it requires a special court order to split. An attorney will have the knowledge and resources to file any type of court order needed throughout the divorce proceedings.
Alabama has laws that ensure equitable distribution of assets and debts in a divorce. Under Alabama Code § 30-2-51 and § 30-2-52, all marital property gets dispersed fairly when two partners divorce. This is not necessarily an even split. Instead, the spouse with the higher income may assume more debt or the one who can afford to pay the mortgage may receive the house. However, the other partner will get their fair share, as well.
Property division involving no significant assets or debts is often one of the easier agreements to reach. High assets or debts make this more difficult, though.
An attorney can give you legal advice on how to sell your home during a divorce. If you or your spouse plan to keep the house after the divorce, a lawyer will help you come to an agreement regarding how the house will be owned and managed.
Couples who have amassed a significant amount of assets fall under what’s known as a high-net-worth divorce. These cases can be very complicated when it comes to asset division. Such couples might own multiple properties and have businesses, stocks, antiques, and cryptocurrency that are challenging to value.
Careful asset valuation is a crucial part of any Alabama divorce. If you’re wondering, Should I get a divorce lawyer if asset separation is the only term that is in dispute? The answer is yes. Don’t underestimate the need for legal guidance if you need to value and split assets. If you attempt to do this yourself and agree to an asset division prepared by your spouse, you are likely to end up with less than your fair share of the accumulated assets.
A Divorce Lawyer Will Help You Remain Objective
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for most people is turning off their emotions. Understandably, you are struggling to deal with the wave of emotions related to the divorce.
Maybe you’re angry because you caught your ex cheating, or maybe they left you after a long marriage for seemingly no reason. But do you need a lawyer for divorce just to keep you from displaying emotions? The answer is yes. Getting overly emotional can slow down the process, alter your ability to see things clearly, and cause you to lose focus.
You might be so angry at your ex that you stay focused on one asset to spite them. Emotional outbursts can delay productivity and cause a breakdown in communication. A breakdown in communication means you aren’t making the best decisions either.
Each side’s stubbornness might lead you to go through a trial rather than resolve outstanding issues through negotiations or mediation. What’s more, if you display too much emotion or anger at trial, this could negatively influence the judge’s perception or understanding of your argument. Dragging the case out to trial also means significantly higher legal fees.
Will Mediation Help You Reach an Agreement?
Some courts require mediation and others only suggest the process for those who cannot settle on agreements on their own. Nevertheless, mediation commonly helps couples negotiate trade-offs and work on resolving some or all of the contested issues.
This process works by having a trained mediator as a go-between for each spouse and attorney. The mediator makes suggestions and tries to steer each party toward a compromise. However, they do not have the authority to decide on your behalf or force a compromise.
If you cannot agree during mediation, the court will put your case on the docket for trial.
Your Divorce Lawyer Can Help When Violence Is Involved
If you’re filing for divorce because domestic violence is involved, your attorney can help. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a history of violence or the fear something will happen. Your attorney might be able to help you move safely without disclosing your new location to your ex.
If you have children, following the appropriate legal steps is crucial so your ex doesn’t allege parental kidnapping. Be careful when it comes to internet searches on your phone or computer. If you feel your current situation is unsafe, speak with our legal team right away. Let us help connect you with the necessary resources to get you somewhere safe while your divorce is pending.
A Divorce Lawyer Will Help Negotiate Child Custody and Support
If children are involved, a parenting plan and schedule are crucial. Even in the most amicable divorces, dividing custody can be emotional and challenging. A divorce attorney can create parenting plans that work for all parties involved.
Alabama law requires all agreements to consider joint legal custody under Alabama law. This means the parents share decision-making duties for their child’s education, medical care, and other vital topics.
They could also share parenting time, with each seeing the child or children often. However, one parent may serve as the primary residential parent for where they go to school. If the parents have joint custody but not equal physical custody, one parent may pay for their routine expenses and receive child support.
Alabama determines child support based on each parent’s income, the days spent with each, and additional related expenses, such as health insurance and childcare costs. The residential parent will likely receive child support from the other parent, even if they share the child with almost even visitation. Partners cannot agree on a child support amount. The court determines these payments.
An attorney will advocate for you to receive or pay a fair amount. If your spouse does not make payments, you can rely on your lawyer in the future to help enforce those payments.
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A Divorce Lawyer Will Protect Your Interests During a Divorce Trial
The events that unfold during a divorce trial depend on the individual circumstances. With a fault-based divorce, the plaintiff’s lawyer will provide evidence that proves the grounds before moving into evidence related to contested issues. You might need to testify as well. Your attorney will discuss the strategy you will use throughout the trial.
Once the plaintiff is done with their side, the defense will present its case and try to counter any evidence presented by the plaintiff. Then each attorney will present closing statements so the judge can review everything and render their decision.
Going to trial doesn’t mean all aspects of the divorce are undecided. If you and your spouse have some uncontested items, the court will typically accept any agreements related to uncontested topics while ruling on any contested ones.
You might still be wondering, Do I need a divorce lawyer for a contested divorce? If so, please contact our office to schedule an initial consultation. We can assess your case, explain the risks of representing yourself in a contested divorce, and help explain what to expect should your case go to trial.
Call Today for a Consultation
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates are prepared to take on your case. If you are wondering if you need a lawyer to handle your divorce, call for a consultation with our firm. Our attorneys understand that divorce can be stressful, and we want to support you through the process.