Divorce Process in Alabama

Divorce Process in Alabama

When people ask how the divorce process works in Alabama, it is first important to distinguish between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, parties typically resolve their issues through an out-of-court settlement and reach an agreement that addresses such things as custody, visitation, support, and maintenance, as well as the division of the marital assets and liabilities. This agreement is then filed together with the other requisite pleadings and documents with the Court.

Conversely, a contested divorce is initiated by the filing of a complaint about divorce with the Court, which establishes the grounds for divorce, and further sets forth the basic provisions for the relief you are requesting from the Court, including custody, property and debt division, alimony, and other issues. The complaint about divorce must then be served upon or delivered to your spouse by the private process server, certified mail, or by the sheriff’s department.

Once your spouse is served with your complaint about divorce, he or she then has thirty (30) days to answer or respond to your complaint. This time period allows your spouse time to respond to your claims in full, as well as hire an attorney if they so choose. While parties may also begin or continue settlement negotiations at this stage to resolve the matter on an uncontested basis, it is important for you to be prepared for your spouse and his or her attorney to file both an answer and a counterclaim for divorce, setting forth their response and their claims or contentions.

The Next Phase of The Divorce Process

In the event that your spouse does not answer or otherwise defend against your complaint for divorce, you can file an application for a default judgment.

Following the filing of your complaint about divorce and your spouse’s answer and counterclaim, the next phase of the divorce process is to initiate discovery, where the parties are asked to answer certain questions and produce certain documents related to the issues in dispute. During this phase, attorneys will do the legal legwork necessary to support your legal position, which includes but is not limited to gathering evidence, obtaining documents, taking depositions, and the like.

Parties can continue to attempt to negotiate a settlement throughout the duration of the divorce process, whether through settlement negotiations between attorneys or through mediation. However, if an agreement cannot be reached and settlement negotiations break down, the divorce proceeding will head to a trial before the judge assigned to your action.

Going to trial means that a judge will rule on all of the issues that are pending between the parties. The conclusion of the trial of your divorce matter ends the contested divorce process unless a party files a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the final decree of divorce or subsequently appeal the judge’s ruling within the allotted time of 42 days.

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