In Alabama, you can only file any legal proceeding in a court that has jurisdiction over you, the other party, and/or the subject matter involved. This jurisdiction is what allows you to initiate a legal case in a particular court or not. A divorce is very much like a civil lawsuit (it basically is a civil lawsuit for divorce) and just like lawsuits the court must have jurisdiction in order for them to grant your divorce for you.
The State of Alabama has the state courts that are divided up into the particular counties with each county having their own court jurisdiction. These county courts are the Alabama courts with the remaining Alabama courts being the appellate courts and the Supreme Court of Alabama. For the most part, most, if not all, state court cases begin in these local county-specific courts and can be appealed to the Alabama appellate courts and eventually the Supreme Court of Alabama, but they all begin in the State courts.
For the county court that you file in to have jurisdiction in divorces either you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of having lived in the State of Alabama for six months prior to filing and still reside here. If both of you meet these residency requirements, then you can technically file in any county in the State that you want. However, practically that does not work since if you live in Mobile, Alabama and file your divorce in Madison County, the Madison County courts are not going to like having an influx of cases from the Mobile County area and might try to discourage this.
If this were really the case, then all uncontested divorces in the state would be filed in the easiest county to get a divorce in with the cheapest filing fee. But, counties would not want this kind of workload and so it is not always practically possible to be filing your divorce in any county you want but you might, depending on your situation and your attorney that you hire. Also, if you have children of the marriage and you want to change or enforce some part of the divorce decree in the future (such as child support or child custody), you would not want to have to travel to Huntsville in order to go to Court.
In most uncontested divorce cases, and all contested divorces, you will need to file in the county that you or your spouse live in if both of you meet the residence requirements. If only one of you meet the residency requirements and the other is a resident of another state, then you must file in either the State that the other spouse lives in or you can file in the county that the spouse that is a resident of Alabama lives in. So, if your spouse lives in California and you have lived in Montgomery for the last six months then you will only be able to file your uncontested or any other type of divorce in Montgomery County or in the appropriate court in California.
Therefore, for the most part it is always best to file your uncontested divorce or any divorce action in the county that you or your spouse reside in. In most cases where there are children of the marriage, you would want to file in the county where the children reside as well. This is because if you ever had to go back in the future and amend the settlement agreement or have the judge enforce some part of the divorce decree involving the children then you will have to go to court and it is best to not have to go that far for your potential court dates. If you have any questions about where to file your divorce, then give our Birmingham divorce attorneys a call today for a consultation over the phone or in one of our offices in Montgomery, Huntsville, Anniston, Decatur, Alabaster, or Birmingham.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!