How to File for a Divorce in Alabama

How to File for a Divorce in Alabama

If your marriage has you feeling like you are no longer living in “Sweet Home Alabama,” then you may be considering getting a divorce.  Here are some basic things you should understand about the process.

Establish residency

At least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months before to file for a divorce in Alabama.  This must be proven in court.

Grounds for divorce

Alabama recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.  No-fault grounds include “incompatibility of temperament” and “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”  

The traditional fault grounds include incapacity, adultery, pregnancy at the time of marriage, imprisonment, a crime against nature, alcohol or drug abuse, insanity, or domestic violence.  

The process in court to file for divorce in Alabama

Alabama is not very friendly to divorce.  It is one of the few states that still has gendered terms in its code, for example saying that a husband can get a divorce if he finds out his wife was pregnant at the time of their marriage without his “knowledge or agency.”  So the state has not standardized the process the way many other states have. Some counties in Alabama have simplified the process a little bit for uncontested divorces by creating standard forms for uncontested divorces.  

The process in court to file for divorce

Alabama has some notable timing restrictions.  For one thing, the court cannot issue a final judgment of divorce until more than 30 days after the filing of the complaint.  For another thing, Alabama law says a person that was just granted a divorce cannot remarry for 60 days.  

A divorce in Alabama is treated in most respects as any other civil case would be.  To file for divorce in Alabama the person seeking a divorce must file a complaint.  Then the other spouse will have to answer the complaint. A divorce proceeding does not necessarily have to resolve all issues like property ownership, child custody, and child support.  Action on those issues must be requested.

Once the divorce complaint is filed then the parties will move into a process called discovery.  Each spouse can request information from the other one.

Spouses will often request loan information, bank statements, earning statements, and the like.  Everything must generally be disclosed.

This is a point where many spouses will learn their estranged partner had some money hidden away or a big debt they did not talk about.  Both spouses have a right to have the same information during the divorce proceedings. When that information is out there will usually be another opportunity to settle.  

In the rare case when a couple cannot settle all of their issues themselves, their divorce will move forward towards a contested hearing.  At this hearing, each spouse will usually present paperwork and witnesses that show how much the couple owns and how that should be split. Evidence may also be presented regarding children and how they should be raised and whether one spouse needs financial support from the other one.  These things will all eventually be decided by a judge after hearing all the information each spouse wants to present.

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