The biggest fear people have is that of the unknown. What you don’t know about divorce can have a harmful effect on your Divorce case. You need to know how the process will play out. The more prepared you are the more confident you will feel and successful you will be.
I have put together a step-by-step guide to help you understand what to expect and your rights when undergoing this difficult legal matter.
Every divorce is different, and this guide is not intended as advice for your specific case, but it will help you make the difficult decisions ahead. If after care consideration, you want to go forward with filing divorce you need to call me to advise you on how you should proceed. There are things now you can do to prepare yourself for the process ahead.
Step 1 Hire an attorney
Can you get a divorce without the help of an attorney? Yes. Is it sensible? No.
Most divorce cases are not simple enough to be handled without the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. Considering the pitfalls, risks and nuances involved, you may subject yourself and family to the many possible missteps that can occur. These can have major consequences to your future and the future of your children. In nearly every event, as soon as you decide your course of action you need to immediately call me at 205-987-2005 to enlist my help. I can guide you through the process, negotiate on you behalf.
There are few divorce that are simple enough to be resolved without the guidance of an experienced Family Law attorney. Remember, even a small misstep in the divorce process can have major consequences to your future. Call me to help guide you through the process of divorce, negotiate on your behalf and fight to make sure your rights and goals are protected.
This is especially true when you expect more conflict to occur between you and your spouse. It is important to have someone advocating for your. Even in low conflict divorces you and benefit from my professional expertise and many years of experience.
Step 2 Decide if it will be Contested vs. Uncontested
A decision needs to be made as to whether you and your spouse can resolve the matter by consent. Will it be Contested or Uncontested.
Often couples will be able to agree upon all the major issues in a divorce. Such issues as the division of property, division of debts, child custody, spousal support, etc. If there is nothing that needs to be contested or settled, you and your spouse can streamline the process and not go to trial by pursuing an Uncontested divorce. However, most marriages are not going to end in agreement on every aspect of the divorce. This is a Contested divorce. If your divorce is or will be Uncontested, I can help you complete the proper paperwork and move the proper case along to file and obtain the finalized divorce from the Court. Where there is a Contested divorce there is much more to be done.
Fault vs. No Fault
Alabama follows Fault and No Fault divorce statute. This means that though a divorce can be obtained on No-fault grounds, Alabama still allows couples the option to file based on specific fault grounds. Call me to discuss your specific grounds as these may affect the final outcome of your divorce.
A “No-fault” divorce means that the divorce is occurring due to irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, or voluntary abandonment rather than a specific cause. A no-fault divorce can still be contested, but your spouse does not need to agree to the divorce. You can be granted the divorce, but there is no requirement for you to prove fault in order to receive your divorce.
You can choose to pursue a divorce based on fault grounds. This means you want to end your marriage due to specific actions taken by your spouse. According to Alabama law, there are ten types of fault which are grounds for divorce, including domestic abuse, drug addiction, adultery, abandonment, and more. A judge may factor fault into his or her judgments regarding disputes over division of property, spousal support, and other contested aspects of the divorce.
Step 3 Become Knowledgeable
You need to educate yourself. This means you need to know. Do you realize that before every police office or expert witness takes the stand they have had weeks and often years of training and experience on how to testify? My clients are given the opportunity to participate in the development and trial of your legal matter. This means I will specifically work with you to help you understand what everything means. Often my clients tell me, “ I knew why the lawyer asked me the question and how I would stumble with my answer.” Or “I knew what the judge would do before the question was asked.” Most clients are satisfied with just writing a check and surprisingly most lawyers don’t work with clients enough to make sure they are knowledgeable about the courtroom and their case. After all, “You know your case better than anyone.” You need to be able to express the truth as you know it. That is what being knowledge means.
Step 4. File Complaint for Divorce
The next step in the divorce process will be filing the actual Complaint for Divorce paperwork with the Clerk of Court in the county where you last lived. In the Complaint you must state whether you are filing for divorce based on fault or no-fault grounds. You must confirm that you or your spouse have been a resident of the State of Alabama for at least six months. You can’t file in Alabama if you haven’t lived in Alabama for less than six months. Your complaint should also include any details which need to be addressed by the court—namely the potentially contested details like child custody and support. I will help ensure that you properly fill out and file the required paperwork.
Step 5 Serve Your Spouse.
Next, you must serve your spouse with notice of the Complaint for Divorce filing. Your spouse or your attorney must be given a copy of the Complaint. This is usually a simple process, but in some cases your spouse may try to avoid being served with the Complaint, and I usually enlist the services of a professional to serve them. This moves the process along quickly without waiting for the local constable to find and serve them. Either way, you as the plaintiff must ensure your spouse receives proper legal notice of the divorce Complaint.
Step 6 Spouse Response
After being legally served, your spouse will have 30 days to answer the Complaint. If they do not file an official answer, then a judge may rule in your favor by default, granting you whatever was requested in the complaint. In most cases, however, your spouse or your spouse’s attorney will respond and the divorce process will proceed to the next step.
Step 7 Discovery and Motions
If you have asked the Court’s assistance with custody, child support, or visitation I will file motions with the Court to get their assistance with your request. Additionally, prior to any negotiations or court hearings, I may, and your spouse’s attorney may conduct a legal process known as discovery. In any court case, discovery is the process whereby each party’s attorneys are entitled to request information from the opposing party, and the opposing party is required to share it. I usually will conduct research and work to ensure that all pertinent information regarding things like custody arrangements, visitation and determine the status of your and your spouse’s finances. This knowledge can be used as evidence if need be. Neither you nor your spouse can legally withhold anything that could be considered evidence in your divorce hearing.
While the discovery process is underway, I may or your spouse’s attorney may also file specific motions—usually temporary—meant to govern the actions of you and your spouse in the interim period before your divorce is finalized. For example, if you depend on your spouse’s income, you may request temporary spousal support in order to handle your living expenses during the divorce. Or, perhaps you want to maintain full custody of your children during the divorce process. In such a case I may file a motion with the court for temporary custody. Any relevant motions like these should be filed and ruled on by a judge throughout this period of time after the Complaint for Divorce has been filed but before the final divorce decree has been granted.
Negotiations, Pendente Lite Relief, and Hearings
There are several ways the next step in the divorce process could proceed, and this step could vary drastically from divorce to divorce based on the specific circumstances surrounding the case. At this point, some form of negotiations will likely be conducted between us and your spouse’s attorney. After looking at the evidence and fully understanding your wishes, I will work towards achieving those goals. Some couples may choose or even be required by a judge to participate in what’s known as “Mediation.” or alternative dispute resolution. Some forms of alternative dispute resolution include mediation and collaborative law, and they are meant to resolve disputes without having to take the case to court. However, if there are aspects of the divorce which cannot be agreed upon through negotiations or mediation, a court hearing will be set.
At your divorce hearing, I will argue your case with a judge who will hear all the pertinent evidence regarding the divorce, your family’s finances, your children’s needs, and much more. You and your spouse may both be asked to testify. I may, on your behalf, choose to call experts to testify on specific subjects like child psychology or other relevant subjects.
Once all requirements have been fulfilled and the case has been heard in court, the Judge will issue a Final Decree. This court order will officially grant the divorce and provide judgments on the various disputed elements of your divorce. For example, the final decree may grant full custody to one parent or split custody 50/50. It may dictate whether one spouse has to pay alimony to the other. It might grant some sort of disputed property like a home to one spouse or the other. Whatever issues were disputed between you and your spouse will be settled, and your divorce will be finalized.
Once a Final Decree is issued in your divorce, you must adhere to the court order or face serious consequences for contempt of court. You or your now ex-spouse may be able to appeal any aspects of the Final Decree within 42 days of its issuance.
I hope you’ve found this step-by-step guide to Alabama divorces helpful. If you are facing a divorce in the State of Alabama, we encourage you to please contact me today and let us fight to protect your rights and work to achieve your goals so that you can finalize your divorce fairly and efficiently, and move on with your life. Give us a call at (205) 987-2005 or email us at email@example.com to set up an initial consultation regarding your divorce or other Family Law issue.