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How to File For Divorce in Alabama

In Alabama, when a married couple decides to break-off legally, it is termed a divorce. The circuit courts have jurisdiction over all Alabama divorce cases. Generally, divorce is meant to dissolve the marriage and divide assets. The petitioner is the partner initiating the divorce while the respondent is the party on the receiving end. If the marriage has been significantly lengthy and it seems that after the divorce, one party will not be capable of self-supporting, the court will bring up alimony. If minor children are involved in the divorce, the court will also have to discuss child visitation, custody, and support. When filing for divorce, the petitioner may be required to tender additional paperwork. This is dependent on the rules of the local circuit court. However, all courts in the state will require the petitioner to complete, duplicate, and serve the following papers:

  • The summons
  • The petition
  • Certificate of dissolution
  • Certificate of representation

However, the petitioner should contact the county court’s local court clerk to affirm if these forms are sufficient to begin the case. There are contested and uncontested divorce cases in Alabama. The uncontested cases, also referred to as simple divorce, are when the spouses have agreed on all issues regarding the divorce proceeding. In this case, the judge does not need to hold a trial.

Do I need a Reason for Divorce in Alabama?

When filing for divorce, the petitioner will be required to cite a legal reason (referred to as grounds) in the divorce complaint, as stated in Section 30–2–1 of the Alabama Code. The following are the legally acceptable fault grounds for divorce in Alabama:

  • Dissertation for a year (minimum)
  • Adultery
  • Incapacity or impotence
  • Two years of imprisonment with at least a seven-year sentence
  • Deviant sexual behavior
  • A minimum of five years confinement in a mental institution for incurable insanity
  • Drug use or habitual drunkenness
  • Domestic abuse
  • A pregnant wife during marriage without the husband’s consent.

Also, intended divorcees can file a no-fault divorce in the state. A no-fault divorce is generally based on either irretrievable marriage breakdown or incompatibility. The petitioner can also petition on a minimum two-year separation.

What constitutes insufficient grounds for Divorce in Alabama?

Any reason not included in the Alabama grounds for divorce (as stated in Section 30–2–1 of the Constitution) will not be acknowledged in the circuit courts. For example, mental abuse is not recognized as a valid ground for divorce in the state.

If the wedded couple currently lives in Alabama, they do not have to worry about residency time. However, if the petitioner alone resides in the state, such a person must have been a six-month resident before filing for divorce. In a situation whereby the respondent spouse lives in Alabama, then the petitioner must file in that spouse’s county of residence. Also, if the couple no longer lives in the state, then the person filing for the divorce must do so in the county they used to live prior to the separation. However, if none of those situations is the case, the petitioner should file in the county where they currently reside.

Why Do I need a Divorce Lawyer?

Generally, persons intending to file a divorce action must have all the necessary information before doing so. Nevertheless, it is in the petitioner’s best interest to employ a divorce attorney’s services to help with the legal proceedings. An Alabama divorce attorney can also help file the divorce papers more effectively and find more information. Therefore intending divorcees should endeavor to find a lawyer, especially in the case of a fault divorce. Even in a no-fault divorce case, it is still in the petitioner’s best interest to hire a divorce lawyer as judges may still consider fault grounds when dealing with alimony issues.

How Do I Get Started in a Divorce in Alabama?

Intending divorcees can start the divorce process by filing the divorce complaint papers and the other necessary documents. The petitioner should ensure to contact the circuit court clerk to confirm that the documents at hand are sufficient. An uncontested divorce in the state will require the petitioner to complete a settlement agreement that will detail how the marital assets will be shared. These papers are to be filed with the appropriate circuit court, then duplicated to provide the copies with the respondent. The couple will have to appear at a court hearing, where the judge will perhaps ask some questions.

How to File for Divorce in Alabama without a Lawyer

In Alabama, persons seeking to dissolve their marriage do not need to employ an attorney to file for an uncontested divorce as they can represent themselves. After obtaining the necessary divorce papers, intending divorcees should ensure to fill the forms correctly. The first form the petitioner needs to complete is the complaint document. This form will explain to the circuit court the type of divorce the petitioner seeks (whether an uncontested or contested divorce) and the reason for applying for that particular type. It is also important to enter some basic information regarding the two parties. All divorce petitioners will also be required to obtain and complete extra documents if they have children together under 19. The information to enter there has to do with child custody and support. If the divorce documents submitted by the petitioner are in order, such a person has to wait 30 days (this does not include the time spent obtaining and filing the forms). After that time, the court will sign the decree. Pursuant to Section 30–2–8.1 (a), If the petitioner’s paperwork is not in order, then the divorce proceeding will be delayed as the judge will order the petitioner to correct the error.

How Does Alabama Divorce Mediation Work?

Mediation in Alabama is one form of ADR (alternative dispute resolution). Mediation is intended to bring both partners together in a bid to resolve the breakdown in the marriage. If the mediation is successful, the mediator will write down the agreement. Both parties will sign, then it will be brought before the court for approval. Mediation is not compulsory in Alabama, and either party or the mediator can end the process.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Alabama?

Generally, the duration of an Alabama mediation is dependent on the issues and their complexity. The couple also has to be forthcoming if the process is to end quickly. If a partner is attempting to punish the other spouse, the mediation will not be successful. Topics such as the division of assets & property, alimony, child visitation, custody, and support will also determine the mediation’s length. Thus, the process could last for weeks; however, the case will proceed to court when mediation does not work, which could drag on for months.

Are Divorce Records Public in Alabama?

Yes, Alabama divorce records are public documents as stated in the state’s Public Records Act. However, documents containing details that are deemed sensitive such as account numbers, bank statements, and any financial agreements, are withheld from the public domain. Also, divorce records that have been sealed or expunged are not accessible to the public.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get Alabama Divorce Records?

Persons interested in obtaining divorce records in the state can do so through the Alabama Public Health website. All interested parties should note that certain details will be required before being granted a divorce record. The documents can be ordered via mail, online, or in-person. Alabama divorce certificates cost a non-refundable fee of $15. This includes a certified copy of the document or, if the record is not available, a “Certificate of Failure to Find.” A fee of $6 accompanies every extra copy ordered. The charges are payable in a money order or check form to the State Board of Health’s account.

Alternatively, requesters may request the forms from the clerk’s office at the court where the case was filed.

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