Once you’ve made the decision to get a divorce, the single most important decision is your choice of the type of divorce you will go through.
Making the right decision is the best way to save you the most time and money, instead of choosing wrong, starting the process, and then having to start over if your initial efforts fail.
Deciding which process to choose will be driven by a number of factors.
Many people start by looking at the financial implications of a divorce. This is critical and must be taken into account before you decide on anything, but there is another side you must pay attention to as well.
If you can manage your emotions and have an acceptable amount of trust between you and your spouse, then your efforts will be expedited. If you have unchecked emotions that can lead to resentment and bitterness, it can result in a long and protracted court battle that will drain your pocketbook and your emotions.
Another consideration is if children are involved. While you have some degree of control over what happens in a divorce process, children do not. If you can agree to keep your disputes to a minimum instead of waging an all-out war, then there is less likely to be emotional and psychological damage inflicted on your children.
Remaining civil with your spouse will have an impact on custody and parenting time. Keep in mind that children are sponges as well. They will see, hear and observe everything that goes on, so it is vital to do what you can to minimize friction before, during and after a divorce takes place.
The good news is that children are resilient and while divorce under any circumstances can be hard on them, they usually find a way to heal, especially in the absence of ongoing conflict.
Another consideration is that you must decide how much conflict you can bear.
Sometimes, it’s easier to drop the gloves, work in the spirit of cooperation, compromise and find solutions. Once you understand that divorce is as much of an emotional process as it as a financial process, you will be able to figure out what your goals are and what you want your life to look like going forward.
Divorce is traumatic and you will suffer feelings of grief and loss, much in the same way you would experience someone’s death. Shame and guilt may also come into play, making it more difficult to reach logical decisions, because they are often transformed into anger or blame.
You might make rash and unrealistic requests that could lead to more conflict or a detrimental settlement that you’ll regret later on.
Your emotional quotient will also have an impact on relationships with your friends, siblings, work, and social life as well. The stress of a divorce will impact you and could interfere with you leading your best life in all parts of your life.
It’s fair to say that your emotional state will play an integral part on the financial aspects of your divorce. Keeping your emotions in check will be difficult, but if you look at the big picture, it may be the wisest move for you, your children, and your bottom line.
What is an uncontested divorce?
Simply put, an uncontested divorce is one where you and your spouse agree on all of the issues that need to be resolved. This includes property division, alimony, child support and custody.
You’ll save time, money, emotional stress and preserve your relationship with your ex, which you may or may not value going forward. Chances are, no attorneys will need to be involved (I would still recommend consulting with an attorney to understand your rights) and you may not even have to appear in court.
Many people go this route with a high degree of success. Others aren’t able to reach agreements on their own and must resort to other ways to find a settlement.
You do have several options you can pursue. Ultimately, how you decide to move forward will form the basis for all your future divorce-related actions.
To learn more about your options, check out our article on the different types of divorce here.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
Uncontested divorces in Alabama are relatively clean and simple. But not everyone can agree on all the issues. When this is the case, you’ll have a contested divorce on your hands.
You may disagree on most issues but not on child custody and visitation rights, or you can’t make a fair decision about who gets which assets. Alimony is also another common sticking point in contested divorces.
Alabama divorce laws are somewhat unique in that they allows for both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce.
With a no-fault divorce, all that needs to be cited is that there is an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage. No other explanations are necessary. This can either be an uncontested or a contested divorce.
A fault-based divorce, which is usually contested, allows a spouse to divorce by stating one of several acceptable reasons. While a no-fault divorce is quicker and less expensive, a fault-based divorce may be a better option if the conduct has an impact on how it is settled.
According to Alabama family law, the grounds for a fault-based divorce in Alabama include:
- 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
How the Uncontested Divorce Process Works in Alabama
Here are the general steps you need to take to get an uncontested divorce in Alabama:
Prove residency. One of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for six months prior to filing a divorce complaint. You will need to provide proof so that the appropriate jurisdiction for the divorce can be established.
Gather your information. This critical step can save you a lot of time if you’re organized and thorough. Even in an uncontested divorce, it’s best to be armed with as much documentation as possible in case you need to produce it. To see what you might need, check out our Ultimate Divorce Checklist here.
Complete initial paperwork. You’ll have to fill out several forms to start your case. You can find those forms at your county clerk’s office, online, or you can complete them with the help of a legal service or family law attorney.
Court personnel can’t provide legal advice, but they will check to make sure your forms are completed properly.
File your forms. You must file forms at 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.
Proof of service. After you file your complaint, you must legally notify your spouse that they are being divorced. This can be done either by certified mail, having a sheriff’s deputy or process server complete the service, or if your spouse is willing they can accept the papers from you in person or by mail and complete an “Answer and Waiver” document.
If the spouse can’t be found and served, then the plaintiff can complete proof of service by publication. This is accomplished by publishing a notice of the divorce in the local newspaper for four weeks in a row. After four weeks, if the spouse still has not responded, then the defendant is considered served.
Service can be made at a person’s home or place of business and be left with the defendant or with a competent adult who is present.
This server must serve papers within 30 days.
Submit proof of service. After a spouse has been served, you must submit proof of service to the courts.
At this point, in an uncontested divorce, the court will review your papers, determine if everything is in order, and if so, sign off on your divorce at the end of a mandatory 3-day waiting period.
Which forms need to be filed for an uncontested divorce in Alabama?
For an uncontested divorce in Alabama, you’ll need to fill in several forms. You can pick up copies at your local county clerk’s office or online. At a minimum, they’ll include:
Complaint. This is filed with a Marital Settlement Agreement (that you or an attorney will draft), and asks the court to end the marriage.
Affidavit of Residency. This notarized statement states that the plaintiff meets residency requirements for an Alabama divorce.
An Answer and Waiver. This document acknowledges the defendant has received the divorce papers and waives the right of service to process (court proceedings).
CS-47: Provides information about possible child support and must be completed even when no child is involved.
Acknowledgment of non-representation: To be completed when one spouse gets an attorney and the other does not. It must be signed by all spouses and be filed at the county court.
Testimony of Plaintiff. A notarized document that states the marriage is broken beyond repair and the plaintiff’s grounds for divorce. It is also used to declare the defendant is not in the military.
Vital Statistics Form. A certificate of divorce used for keeping state records.
Uncontested Divorce FAQs
How long does an uncontested divorce take in Alabama?
Alabama divorce laws require at least 30 days must elapse from the filing of a complaint before a final judgment of divorce can be entered.
An actual final judgment may take longer, depending on the court’s backlog, if more documentation is required, or other extenuating circumstances are part of the case.
How much does an uncontested divorce typically cost?
As of 2019, it costs a plaintiff $290 in filing fees for an uncontested divorce in Alabama. If there is a minor children in the marriage, that amount rises to $390.
Each Alabama county also has a separate filing fee. It varies and you will need to contact the county clerk where you were considering filling to find out what that amount is.
If you have divorce papers served on your spouse through a sheriff’s deputy or a process server, there will also be a small fee associated with that as well.
When you can demonstrate that you are financially challenged and don’t have the means to pay these legal fees, you may be able to petition the court to have the fees waived.
Can you file for divorce online in Alabama?
No, you need to file paperwork in person at the county clerk’s office where one of the spouses resides.
However, there are online services that will help you complete much of the preliminary paperwork online. Many attorneys may also save you time and money by working with you through a series of emails.
This is especially useful in an uncontested divorce when all of the issues have been decided in advance.
Learn More: How to file for a divorce in Alabama
What if we reconcile and change our minds about getting a divorce?
If somebody wants to divorce you in Alabama, you can’t stop them from doing so.
However, if you both change your mind and decide you no longer want to get divorced, the plaintiff can file a Motion to Dismiss that will stop the divorce complaint.
However, once the final divorce decree has been issued, you can’t reverse the action. If you decide you want to get back together again as man and wife, you’ll need to get married again.
What is a default divorce?
A default divorce process is similar to an uncontested one.
The biggest difference is that in an uncontested divorce, the defendant can file a response agreeing to all terms as part of a final settlement.
A default divorce can be ruled by the courts when the defendant is non-responsive to all requests within the prescribed 30-day timeframe.
In a default divorce, a judge has the option of granting the divorce if, after diligent attempts to make contact, the defendant can’t be found, and those efforts are presented as evidence to the court.
If an uncontested divorce is not specified, then without a response, a petitioner may be able to file a Motion for Default instead. This allows a divorce to be finalized without the participation of one of the spouses.
Judges can be reluctant to grant default divorces, especially when children are involved.
Are there any special considerations for getting an uncontested divorce when children are involved?
All the basic steps for an uncontested divorce with children are the same, except you’ll need to complete and submit additional documentation. This is primarily to make sure custody and child support issues are resolved.
These forms include:
- CS-41 (Child Support Obligation Income Affidavit)
- CS-42 (Child Support Guideline Form)
- CS-43 (Child Support Guideline Notice of Compliance)
- CS-47 (Child Support Information Sheet)
Both parents may also be required to take a “Transition in Parenting” Class or a “Children Cope with Divorce” Seminar. A certification of attendance must also be submitted with the rest of the documents listed above.
When child support is awarded, courts will also require the following to be issued:
- A Withholding Order of Payment of Child Support
- Notice to Defendant to let them know about the child support action.
- Instruction for Employer
- Answer to Order of Withholding which actually sets the order into action
- An Order of Service and Return
Learn More: A Guide to Child Support in Alabama
Are there any differences in an uncontested Alabama divorce if one spouse is in the military?
If you or your spouse are in the military, you have certain protections you are afforded in a divorce that extend to all states.
To get a divorce in Alabama if one of you is in the military, you or your spouse must reside or be stationed in Alabama.
The grounds for divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce in Alabama. You can either pursue a no-fault or a fault-based case.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act does allow an active member of the military to postpone a divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not adequately able to respond to a divorce complaint due to service commitments.
But in an uncontested divorce, a servicemember may also choose to waive a delay in the divorce, by signing paperwork that will allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
Child support and alimony are determined by Alabama state law. The only caveat is that federal law says these awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances.
The division of military retirement benefits are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act.
What should I do if we don’t agree on certain issues?
You should consult with a divorce attorney. It’s important that you understand how the law applies to your situation so you can make informed decisions. From there, you can try to work through the disputed issues through mediation or litigation.
Just make sure that the lawyer you choose is actually great in what they do and not only in advertising. If you see something on their website that hints at their legal advice being better than other lawyers’, don’t go for them, as it is a violation of Alabama bar rules for lawyers.
Alabama law ensures that, for example, no representation is made that the quality of legal services provided by one lawyer is greater than the quality of others.
If you can’t afford to pay for legal services, there are several free options you can tap into for assistance.
Do you need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce?
The short answer is: No, you don’t need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce.
That said, it’s typically a good idea to at least consult with a divorce attorney – particularly if you have young children or a complex financial situation.
If you and your spouse agree on all the terms, there are plenty of resources you can access to help walk you through many of the things you’ll need to know.
Where can I go for free legal help in Alabama?
Although the staff can’t dispense legal advice, employees of any county clerk’s office in Alabama can give you guidance on what steps to take and what forms to fill out related to your divorce.
The following organizations may be able to provide you with legal assistance if you qualify:
- Alabama Law Foundation
- Alabama Legal Help
- Legal Services Alabama
- Alabama State Bar Volunteer Lawyers Programs
- South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program