Divorce is difficult regardless of whether or not the divorce is uncontested or contested. It is essential that you hire an attorney with whom you are completely comfortable, someone you can trust with your family, your finances, and your future. Sometimes one spouse will try to convince the other spouse that he or she does not need an attorney. This is not true. Each party in a divorce proceeding needs to be represented. Sure, you could go forward without an attorney, but you will not have anyone looking out for your interests. This is not the time to represent yourself or be cavalier, even in an uncontested divorce. Once the documents are signed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to change the terms. Choosing the right attorney to help you through this transition is essential. The peace of mind you will have after consulting with and being represented by the right attorney is priceless.
At New Beginnings Family Law, P.C., we have several years of experience in handling divorce cases and our caring and knowledgeable staff members and attorneys have been through divorces as well. This page is designed to answer some of the most basic questions presented to our attorneys and staff. It is not designed to take the place of a thorough consultation with a highly qualified attorney. You can schedule a consultation by contacting us through our contact us form or by telephone at (256) 518–9529.
Does someone have to be at fault in order to get divorced in Alabama?
No, no one has to be at fault in order for a couple to get divorced in Alabama. However, divorce should never be entered into lightly and should never be threatened during an argument. In Alabama, a couple may be divorced based upon incompatibility of temperament or irretrievable breakdown. However, couples may also be divorced under certain fault grounds including:
- Physical and incurable incapacitation at the time of marriage
- Voluntary abandonment for a period of one year
- Imprisonment for two years with a sentence of at least seven years
- Commission of a crime against nature either before or after marriage
- Being addicted to habitual drunkenness or habitual use of morphine, opium, cocaine, or another drug after the marriage
- Hopeless and incurable insanity with confinement in a mental hospital for a period of five years
My spouse has filed for divorce, do I have to agree with the divorce in order for the divorce to be granted?
No, once one party files for divorce, the court can grant the divorce with or without the agreement of the other spouse. However, if the spouse who filed the original divorce complaint chooses to dismiss that complaint it is possible for the case to go away.
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one where the parties have reached an agreement regarding all issues related to their divorce including child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, division of assets, division of debts, and payments for the preparation and filing of the divorce documents. Typically in this situation, one party will hire an attorney to draft the documents necessary to file the divorce. The other party should, but does not always, hire an attorney to represent him or her to make sure the agreement is fair. Once all the documents are signed and filed, the documents must sit in the clerk's office or judge's office for a minimum of thirty (30) days. This is called a "cooling–off period". Once this period has expired, the judge can sign the Final Decree of Divorce divorcing the parties. With the current caseload being experienced in our family courts, it typically takes between thirty–one (31) to sixty (60) days for a divorce decree to be signed.
What is a contested divorce?
In contrast to an uncontested divorce, a contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot immediately reach an agreement regarding the terms of the divorce. This does not mean that an agreement will not be reached at some future time, but initially, the parties cannot agree. One party files a Complaint for Divorce and has the other party served.
What happens in a contested divorce after the Complaint is filed?
After the Complaint is filed, it still has to be served upon the other party. This can be done by sheriff, certified mail, or special process server. Once the party is served, he or she has thirty (30) days to answer. Further, the Court typically enters a Standing Pendente Lite Order. Pendente Lite means pending the litigation. This standing order sets forth the rights and responsibilities of both parties during the time the case is pending. These standing orders can be amended under appropriate circumstances. In those courts that do not have standing orders, the party filing the complaint will often ask for a pendente lite hearing. Whether there is a standing order or a hearing to determine what will happen pendente lite, this does not mean that the terms of that order will match the final outcome of the litigation. Just because one party has custody of the children under the standing order, the court can still grant custody of the children to either party after hearing all the evidence at the final hearing.
Also, each party will request that the other party answer certain questions and produce documents. These are necessary for your attorney to prepare your case for settlement or trial. Sometimes, depositions are also necessary. These are sessions where the other attorney will take your testimony under oath. Your attorney will likely take the deposition of your spouse as well. After all discovery is completed, the parties often proceed to mediation. In mediation, you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys will meet with a certified domestic mediator who acts as an impartial third party to help the parties resolve their disputes and reach an agreement. Many cases will be resolved in mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the case proceeds to trial.
What will this cost?
It is very difficult to determine what the final cost of a contested divorce will be. We do our very best to keep your costs low by utilizing the strengths of our staff members in drafting necessary documents and communicating information with our clients. We also use the latest technology to reduce costs as well.