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Divorce can be a stressful and emotional process, but the right knowledge and guidance can make it more manageable. If you’re considering getting divorced in Alabama, it’s important to understand the steps involved. With that in mind, let’s explore the basics of what you need to know.

First and foremost, it’s helpful to understand that Alabama is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that you don’t need to prove that your spouse did something wrong in order to file for divorce. There are a few other requirements that you’ll need to meet, however.

For example, you or your spouse must have lived in Alabama for at least six months prior to filing, and you’ll need to file in the county where either you or your spouse lives. Additionally, there may be residency requirements that apply to military personnel.

Filing for Divorce in Alabama

When it comes to filing for divorce in Alabama, there are several important steps to follow.

1. Meeting Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce in Alabama, one of the spouses must be a resident of the state for at least six months.

2. Choosing Grounds for Divorce

Alabama recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Fault grounds include adultery, cruelty, and addiction. No-fault grounds refer to an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, meaning the spouses have irreconcilable differences that cannot be resolved.

3. Filing the Complaint for Divorce

The spouse initiating the divorce must file a Complaint for Divorce with the Circuit Court of the county in which they reside. This complaint includes personal information about both spouses, the grounds for divorce, and other relevant details such as child custody and support.

4. Serving the Complaint

The complaint must be served to the other spouse by a court-approved method, typically a sheriff’s deputy or a private process server. After being served, the spouse has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

5. Negotiating a Settlement

If both spouses can agree on the terms of the divorce, they can negotiate a settlement agreement that covers issues such as property division, spousal support, and child custody and support.

6. Going to Trial

If the spouses cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, the case will go to trial before a judge. The judge will hear evidence and testimony from both sides before making a ruling on the various issues.

Overall, filing for divorce in Alabama involves several important steps that must be carefully followed. A divorce lawyer can provide guidance and assistance throughout the process to help ensure the best possible outcome for both spouses.

Requirements for Divorce in Alabama

Getting a divorce is a serious and often emotionally challenging process. It involves ending a legal marriage, dividing property, assets, and debts, and making arrangements for the care of any children involved. In Alabama, there are specific requirements that must be met before a divorce can be granted.

Residency Requirement

Before filing for divorce in Alabama, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for six months. Additionally, the divorce must be filed in the county where the spouses last lived together as a married couple or in the county where the defendant currently resides.

Grounds for Divorce

Alabama recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. A fault-based divorce can be granted on the basis of adultery, abandonment, imprisonment, addiction, or irreconcilable differences that led to a permanent and complete breakdown of the marriage. In a no-fault divorce, the parties agree that there are irreconcilable differences, and the marriage cannot be salvaged.

Property Division

Alabama is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property will be divided fairly but not necessarily equally between the spouses. The court will consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the contributions each spouse made to the marriage when dividing property.

Child Custody and Support

Child custody and support are often among the most contentious issues in a divorce involving children. In Alabama, the court will consider the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody. Additionally, both parents are responsible for supporting their children financially until they reach 19 years of age or graduate from high school.

In conclusion, getting a divorce in Alabama requires meeting certain requirements, including residency, grounds for divorce, and property division. Child custody and support are also important considerations. It’s important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney who can guide you through the process and help you achieve the best possible outcome for yourself and your family.

Grounds For Divorce

Under Alabama law, there are two types of divorces: no-fault and fault-based. In a no-fault divorce, the spouses do not need to provide specific reasons for wanting to dissolve their marriage. They simply need to state that their marriage is “irretrievably broken” and that there is no hope for reconciliation. On the other hand, in a fault-based divorce, one spouse must prove that the other spouse committed certain actions that justify ending the marriage.

There are 12 different grounds for divorce in Alabama, which are outlined in Alabama Code Section 30-2-1. Some of the most common include:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Imprisonment
  • Alcohol or drug addiction
  • Domestic violence

It’s worth noting that some of these grounds are considered “fault” grounds, while others, like incompatibility or irretrievable breakdown, are considered “no-fault” grounds for divorce. Whether you choose to pursue a fault-based or no-fault divorce may depend on a range of factors, such as your individual situation, how well you are getting along with your spouse, and whether or not you’d like to seek certain legal remedies related to the divorce (like alimony or property division).

As an expert on Alabama divorces, I always advise clients to think carefully about which grounds for divorce they will pursue. While it may feel satisfying to “blame” your spouse for the end of your marriage, pursuing a fault-based divorce can be a lengthy and emotionally draining process. On the other hand, a no-fault divorce can be simpler and more straightforward, particularly if both parties agree to the terms of the divorce.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s essential to work with an experienced divorce attorney who understands the ins and outs of Alabama divorce law. They can help you navigate the process, protect your legal rights, and ensure that you receive a fair and just settlement.

Starting the Divorce Process in Alabama

If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, you can start the divorce process in Alabama by filing a complaint in the circuit court of the county where you or your spouse lives. This section outlines the basic steps involved in filing for divorce in Alabama.

  1. Residency requirements: Before you can file for divorce in Alabama, you or your spouse must meet the state’s residency requirements. At least one of you must have lived in Alabama for at least six months before filing for divorce.
  2. Grounds for divorce: Alabama is a “mixed state,” meaning that you can file for either a no-fault or a fault-based divorce. No-fault grounds for divorce include irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, while fault-based grounds include adultery, cruelty, abandonment, addiction to drugs or alcohol, confinement in prison, and incurable insanity.
  3. Filing the complaint: To begin the divorce process in Alabama, you or your attorney must file a complaint with the appropriate court. The complaint should include information about your marriage, grounds for divorce, and any requested relief.
  4. Serving the complaint: Once the complaint has been filed, it must be “served” on your spouse, along with a summons directing them to respond to the complaint. The summons must be served by a process server or by certified mail.
  5. Responding to the complaint: Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the complaint by filing an answer. If they fail to respond, the court may enter a default judgment in your favor.
  6. Discovery: After the complaint has been filed and served, both parties are required to exchange information and documentation relevant to the divorce. This process is known as discovery.
  7. Negotiation and settlement: After the discovery process, both parties may attempt to negotiate a settlement agreement that resolves all outstanding issues, such as property division, alimony, and child custody and support.
  8. Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial. At trial, each side will have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony in support of their case.

The divorce process in Alabama can involve several complex legal issues, but with the help of an experienced attorney, you can navigate the process and make informed decisions about your future.

Serving Your Spouse in Alabama

Serving your spouse with divorce papers can be one of the more challenging parts of the divorce process. Serving papers is required by law and, once your spouse is served, they have a set amount of time to respond to the divorce complaint. In Alabama, there are a few different ways to serve your spouse.

Personal Service

Personal service is the most common way to serve divorce papers in Alabama. It involves physically giving the papers directly to your spouse. Personal service can be done by anyone who is not a party to the case and who is over the age of 18. This person will need to fill out a Proof of Service form and sign it in front of a notary.

Service by Mail

In some cases, you can serve your spouse with divorce papers by mail. However, this is only allowed if your spouse agrees to accept service by mail in writing. The written agreement must have a verified signature and include a waiver of service of process.

Service by Publication

If you cannot find your spouse or if they are avoiding service, you may be able to serve them by publication. This is done by publishing a notice of the divorce in a newspaper in the area where your spouse was last known to reside. The notice must be published once a week for four consecutive weeks, and you will need to file proof of publication with the court.

Once your spouse has been served, they will have 30 days to respond to the divorce complaint. If they fail to respond within that time frame, you can seek a default judgment. It is important to note that serving your spouse can be a delicate matter, so it’s best to work with an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that everything is done correctly.

Negotiating a Settlement in Alabama

When going through a divorce in Alabama, negotiation is crucial in order to settle issues related to the division of assets, child custody, and child support. If both parties can come to a mutually beneficial agreement, it can save time, money, and emotional stress for everyone involved.

Here are some steps on how to negotiate a settlement in Alabama:

Step 1: Establish clear communication

It’s crucial to have open and honest communication with your spouse throughout the negotiation process. Be clear about what you want and be willing to listen to their perspective as well. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open to avoid any misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Step 2: Determine your priorities

Before you begin the negotiation process, it’s important to determine what your priorities are. Make a list of what’s most important to you and what you’re willing to compromise on. This will help guide your negotiation strategy and ensure that you’re negotiating from a position of strength.

Step 3: Consider mediation

If you’re having difficulty reaching an agreement, consider hiring a mediator. Mediators are neutral third parties who can help facilitate the negotiation process and help you reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This can be particularly useful if you’re having difficulty communicating directly with your spouse.

Step 4: Consult with an attorney

It’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney before finalizing any divorce settlement. An experienced divorce attorney can provide guidance and advice on what constitutes a fair settlement and can help you avoid any potential legal pitfalls.

Step 5: Put the agreement in writing

Once you’ve reached an agreement, it’s important to put it in writing. This will help ensure that everyone is clear on the terms of the settlement and can serve as a reference in case any issues arise in the future.

By following these steps, you can effectively negotiate a settlement in Alabama and take the first step toward a new chapter in your life. Remember to remain calm and focused and to prioritize open communication throughout the process.

Going to Trial in Alabama

If a couple cannot reach an agreement on all issues during the divorce process, the case may proceed to trial. Going to trial can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it is important to consult with an experienced divorce attorney before making this decision.

During a trial, the judge will hear testimony from both parties and any witnesses. Each spouse’s attorney will have the opportunity to present evidence and make arguments in support of their client’s position.

After hearing all of the evidence, the judge will make a final decision on issues such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. It is essential to have a skilled attorney who can present your case effectively and persuasively to the judge.

In Alabama, divorce trials are typically heard in front of a judge rather than a jury. The judge will make the final decision on all issues, unlike in some other states where a jury may decide certain aspects of the case.

It is important to note that if a party is unhappy with the outcome of the trial, they may have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. This can add even more time, expense, and emotional stress to an already difficult situation.

Overall, going to trial should be a last resort in a divorce case. It is important to exhaust all other options, such as mediation or negotiation, before proceeding to trial. However, if trial is necessary, it is crucial to have an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and protect your rights.

Finalizing Your Divorce in Alabama

Once your divorce case has been settled, you will need to finalize your divorce. Finalizing a divorce in Alabama involves submitting a form to the court. Below are the steps you need to take to finalize your divorce in Alabama:

  1. Submit a Divorce Decree to the court: Once the court has approved your divorce settlement, you will need to prepare and submit a divorce decree to the court. This document outlines the terms of your divorce, including how assets will be divided, child custody and support arrangements, and any other agreements made between you and your spouse.
  2. Attend a Final Hearing: After submitting the divorce decree, you will need to attend a final hearing. This hearing is usually brief and is used to make sure that all of the information in your decree is accurate and complete.
  3. Wait for the Judge’s Signature: After the final hearing, you will need to wait for the judge to sign your divorce decree. Once this has been done, your divorce is considered final.
  4. Obtain Certified Copies of Your Divorce Decree: To ensure that your divorce is legally recognized, you will need to obtain certified copies of your divorce decree. These copies can be obtained from the court clerk’s office and will be necessary if you plan to make any legal changes to your name or marital status.
  5. Update Your Legal Documents and Benefits: After obtaining your certified copies, you will need to update any legal documents and inform any relevant institutions of your change in marital status. This includes updating your passport, driver’s license, and social security card.

It is important to note that the time it takes to finalize a divorce in Alabama can vary depending on the complexity of your case. However, by following these steps and obtaining the necessary legal documents, you can ensure that your divorce is recognized and legally binding.

Child Custody and Support in Alabama

In Alabama, child custody and support are determined by the court based on the best interests of the child. The court will consider several factors, such as the child’s age, the parents’ employment and financial situation, the child’s relationship with each parent, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.

Child Custody

Under Alabama law, custody is referred to as “legal custody” and “physical custody.” Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, such as decisions about education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Physical custody refers to the right to have the child physically present with you.

  • Joint legal custody: Both parents share decision-making authority.
  • Sole legal custody: One parent has decision-making authority.
  • Joint physical custody: The child spends significant time with both parents.
  • Sole physical custody: The child primarily lives with one parent, and the other parent has visitation rights.

The court may award joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. The court may also award sole legal and/or physical custody to one parent if it determines that it is in the child’s best interests.

Child Support

Child support in Alabama is calculated based on the Income Shares Model. This model takes into account the income of both parents and the number of children for whom support is being paid. There are guidelines in place to determine the amount of child support to be paid. However, the court may deviate from these guidelines if it determines that using the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.

It is important to note that both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their child, regardless of whether they have physical custody or not. The court may also order one or both parents to provide medical insurance for the child if it is available at a reasonable cost.

In summary, child custody and support in Alabama are determined based on the best interests of the child. The court will consider several factors before making a decision about custody and child support. Both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their child. However, the court will determine the exact amount of child support to be paid based on the Income Shares Model and other factors.

Property Division in Alabama Divorce

When getting a divorce in Alabama, one of the key considerations is property division. Alabama is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that property is not necessarily divided equally between the two parties. Instead, it is divided in a way that the court deems to be fair, based on several factors.

The first step in property division is to determine what property is considered marital property and what is separate property. Marital property includes any property acquired during the marriage, such as real estate, cars, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and personal items. Separate property, on the other hand, is property that was acquired by one spouse before the marriage, as well as any gifts or inheritances received by one spouse during the marriage.

Once the marital property has been identified, it must be valued. This is typically done by appraisers or other experts and can include everything from real estate and cars to jewelry and artwork. Once everything has been valued, the court will then consider several factors when dividing the property, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of both parties
  • The income and earning potential of each party
  • The contributions made by each party to the marriage
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • Any agreements made by the parties prior to or during the marriage

Based on these factors, the court will then divide the property in a way that is fair and equitable. It’s important to keep in mind that equitable does not necessarily mean equal, so one party may end up with a greater share of the property than the other.

It’s important to note that Alabama is a no-fault divorce state, which means that the reason for the divorce (such as infidelity or abuse) is not considered when dividing property. Additionally, any property division agreements reached by the parties prior to or during the marriage will also be considered by the court, as long as they are not unconscionable.


In conclusion, getting divorced in Alabama involves several steps to be carried out in a specific order. You must meet the residency requirement, file the petition, notify your spouse, negotiate a settlement agreement, attend a court hearing, and wait for the final judgment. Moreover, it’s crucial to understand the legal grounds for divorce, the factors that may affect property distribution and alimony, and how to handle child custody and support issues.

Keep in mind that divorce can be emotionally taxing and financially draining, even if you have a lawyer to guide you through the process. You and your spouse may have different views on the division of assets and liabilities, or you may have trouble agreeing on the terms of child custody and visitation. It’s essential to stay objective, seek professional counseling and support, and protect your rights and interests throughout the divorce proceedings.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can make the divorce process smoother and less stressful. Remember to consult with a qualified Alabama divorce attorney for legal advice and representation, especially if your case is complex or contested. With diligence and patience, you can move on to a new chapter in your life with peace of mind.

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