A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Alabama
When you file for a divorce in Alabama, one of the best things you can do is to arm yourself with the information you’ll need to see you through the process from start to finish.
This guide covers the important things that you need to know about filing for divorce.
Let’s jump in…
- Gathering Important Information
- Divorce Process Options
- Fill Out the Necessary Forms
- File Your Documents
- Serving Your Spouse
- Alabama Divorce FAQs
Gather important information
This is a critical step that can save you time, money and stress in your Alabama divorce if you approach it in the right way. It will take time to pull together your information, but you will need do this to make sure your legal rights are protected and to give yourself the possibility of achieving the best possible final settlement with your spouse.
Starting early and being organized in your approach are keys to successfully completing this task.
Decide how you will proceed with your divorce
Once you have made the decision to divorce, determining what type of divorce you will pursue in Alabama is the most important thing you will decide because it will set the framework for everything else that comes after it.
In Alabama, you have several possible options you can pursue, and each one depends in large part on your relationship with your spouse and how well you can agree to work together to achieve a mutual goal.
To learn more about your Alabama divorce options, be sure to check out our guide on the different types of divorce so that you can start to form an effective and appropriate strategy going forward.
Fill Out the Required Court Forms
After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue in Alabama, you will need to complete several forms and submit them to start the process.
An attorney can help you with this process, making sure that you are using the right forms and that they are filled out correctly.
But if you are going to complete forms by yourself, which many people do, there are several possible forms you will need to submit. You will need to make sure that you are also filling out your forms in the correct county. Court staff will be able to help you with this information.
At a minimum, you will need to complete a Complaint for Divorce that will provide details on the issues you want settled such as dividing assets, child support and custody, alimony and other related items.
If children are part of the divorce, you will need to complete several additional forms as well.
If you are attempting to go through an uncontested divorce, you should also be prepared to submit a marital settlement agreement for a judge to review.
File Your Documents with the Court
After you have completed your paperwork, it must be filed with the circuit court of the county where the defendant lives, or in the circuit court of the county where the parties lived when the separation occurred, or if the defendant is a nonresident, then in the circuit court of the county where the Plaintiff lives.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties can file in any county they choose.
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
In Alabama, a plaintiff cannot deliver divorce papers personally to their spouse, but anyone who is over 18 and who is not a party to the divorce can do so. This is usually done by a professional process server, a sheriff or constable. You will need to pay a fee to have this done and papers must be served within 30 days after they are filed.
Service can be made at a person’s home or place of business and the summons and complaint can be left with the defendant or with a competent adult who is present. If the person refuses to accept process, papers can be mailed to him or her and service will then be considered complete. Many times, a plaintiff will request service by certified mail.
When these options fail, service can be made by publication which entails running a legal notice in a local paper for a specified about of time in the county where the divorce complaint has been filed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Alabama
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Alabama?
To file for a divorce in Alabama, a petitioner will need to pay a filing fee of $290 for an uncontested divorce. That amount is $390 in uncontested divorce with minor children of the marriage.
There is also a filing fee that varies from county to county. You will need to contact the court where you live to determine what that fee is.
Also, expect to pay a fee for having papers served on your spouse. This amount will vary depending on which method you choose.
Related: How Much Does Divorce Cost?
Can divorce fees be waived in Alabama?
If you are not able to pay your filing fees, then you can ask the judge to waive those fees.
To do so, you will need to demonstrate your lack of means to pay, complete a waiver request form at the courthouse and submit it for consideration.
Can I file for a divorce online in Alabama?
You can use one of several services or a private attorney in Alabama to help you complete your forms online or by email. This is usually cheaper and faster, especially in uncontested divorces.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is 3 Step Divorce.
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However, regardless of how the forms are completed, you will need to print your forms out and then file your documents in person with the court.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Alabama?
By law, Alabama requires that 30 days must elapse from the filing of a summons and complaint before a final judgment of divorce can be entered.
A final judgment may take longer depending on the venue, court backlog or other circumstances.
If a divorce is contested through a trial, or you use other means such as mediation or arbitration, it could take several months to resolve issues before a final judgment is entered.
Read More: How Long Does Divorce Take?
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Alabama?
To file for divorce in Alabama, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for six months prior to the filing of the Complaint. Proof will need to be provided so that appropriate jurisdiction for the divorce can be established.
Can I file for divorce in Alabama without using a lawyer?
Yes. In an uncontested divorce you can complete the forms and submit paperwork on your own with relative ease, as long as you and your spouse agree to work together.
If you cite a no-fault ground and file it with the court, at the end of the 30-day waiting period, the judge will review your case and issue a final divorce decree without using an attorney.
Can I get a divorce in Alabama if I am pregnant?
Alabama does not have any laws on the books that prevent a person from getting divorced if she is pregnant. However, from a practical point of view, it may be best to wait until the baby is born before finalizing a divorce.
This is because if a divorce is finalized prior to birth, the decree would have to be amended to allow for child support. There may be issues of visitation to deal with as well. Keep in mind that the husband is the presumed father of a child born during marriage, unless paternity can be established to the contrary.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Alabama?
If you or your spouse are in the military either you or your spouse must reside or be stationed in Alabama.
The grounds for military divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce in Alabama. You can either cite a no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences, or a fault based reason including:
- a physically and incurably incapacitated spouse at the time of the marriage
- either spouse committed adultery
- habitual drunkenness
- abandonment of the marriage for a period of at least 12 months
- a mental illness that caused a spouse to be institutionalized for at least 5 consecutive years and the spouse is incurably insane at the time of the divorce filing
- imprisonment for at least 2 years, with a sentence of at least 7 years in prison
- a crime against nature, human or beast, before or after the marriage,
- a wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage and didn’t tell her spouse
- violence or cruelty, as long as you are able to prove that you were fearful for your life or health while the violence was taking place
When a spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.
A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
Child support and spousal support are determined by Alabama state guidelines, but federal law dictates that these awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances.
A division of retirement benefits are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. This legislation directs how a former servicemember’s retirement benefits should be divided after divorce. A key element is that the former spouse must have been married to the former servicemember for a minimum of 10 years while the military member has served on active duty.
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