Do It Yourself Uncontested Divorce in Alabama
The Divorce Documents: Clauses and Language
The first document that is filed in any divorce case, whether contested or uncontested, is the Complaint. In the Complaint, you need to make sure that it states what you want the judge to Order. So, if you want your Settlement Agreement to be ordered, then state in the Complaint that you hereby request that the Settlement Agreement be ordered and made part of the divorce decree. If you want your maiden name returned, then ask for that. Whatever you are asking the Court for in your do it yourself divorce or DIY divorce, that should be in your Complaint.
You should always ask the Court to grant your divorce and state the grounds for divorce, such as incompatibility or irretrievable breakdown. There is usually a statement of the separation and marriage dates, the minor children of the marriage are named, including certain personal information about them such as their birth dates. This is because depending on if they were born before the marriage or not, there may be additional documents necessary to finalize your divorce. There is some additional legal language that is standard in most Complaints, but those are some of the basics that must be included. Also, the Complaint must be properly signed and executed by the filing party or the filing party’s attorney. This is always the first document filed in any divorce.
The Statement of Representation or Acknowledgment of Representation is the document signed by the Defendant stating that they waive their right to an attorney and fully understand that your attorney in the uncontested divorce represents you and you alone. Typically, this is only filed in an uncontested divorce.
The Answer and Waiver can vary depending on the county, but it always denies certain aspects of the Complaint and waives certain procedural rules, to allow the divorce to proceed more quickly. In a contested divorce, filed without an agreement, the Answer would not include a Waiver, and would just list the aspects of the Complaint that are denied and then counter with a list of things to request of the Judge. For example, the Complaint in a contested divorce may ask for custody and the other spouse’s Answer may deny this and request custody themselves. However, in an uncontested divorce since both parties are in agreement, the Answer would deny but then waive certain requirements and not list out things to ask for, paving the way for only the things in the Settlement Agreement to be entered by the Court.
The Child Support forms are fill in the blank forms, it is just important that the income amounts are accurate and that the CS-42 is calculated correctly by referring to the correct chart on the State of Alabama’s website.
The Testimony of the Plaintiff or the Deposition of the Plaintiff is a statement under oath by the Plaintiff. Among other things, it must state jurisdictional grounds for the Court you are filing in (that you have lived in Alabama for the previous six months) and state why you should get a divorce based on the grounds you asked for. For example, if asking for a divorce based on incompatibility then the Testimony might say that you have drifted apart, no longer have friends in common, that you cannot agree on anything, and other such instances of the two of you being incompatible. It would also state certain facts about the marriage and minor children of the marriage.
This is usually a document that is signed and filed with the Court, but in a few counties, most notably Etowah County, you cannot do this by signing a document and have to physically go to the Courthouse and be asked questions by the Judge and answer them under oath in Court. However, this is only for a couple of counties in the State of Alabama, and in most places you can file the Testimony without having to go to Court. There are also certain timing requirements when filing a testimony, in that it must be filed after the Complaint. In some counties if you sign this deposition or testimony prior to the Complaint being filed, then it will be no good. The testimony must be given after the Complaint and the Answer have been signed and filed since the Answer and Waiver is one of the documents that waive the requirement for you to give live testimony in person in front of a judge.
The Settlement Agreement is the most important document in an uncontested divorce. It lays out the contract or agreement between the spouses and is signed by both of them and filed with the Court, and eventually ordered by the Judge as long as they approve it. The Judges might not approve your agreement if there is something inherently unfair about it or if it is not in the best interest of the children. For example, if both parties work, the children are living with the mother, and the father is getting visitation every other weekend, but in the agreement the father is not paying any child support to the mother and no sufficient reason for not paying anything has been given, then the Judge may consider it unfair for him to not pay any support to the mother. Remember that a judge does not have to approve your agreement without a hearing. If they find something that they feel may be unfair, they can set it for a hearing and both parties will go before the Judge to discuss whether it should be approved or not. Such difficulties in uncontested divorces are highly unusual since our divorce lawyers counsel you and can tell you prior to filing whether there are unfair items in your agreement that could cause issues.
There are other documents that must be filed in some counties such as Custody Affidavits, Motions, and even Affidavits of Residency, but the documents listed above are generally required in all uncontested divorces. There are also required language that must be in these documents that cannot be adequately addressed in this blog such as the inclusion of the Alabama Relocation Act in your Settlement Agreement if you have minor children of the marriage. This has been a general discussion of the process of filing for divorce and the documents involved and does not constitute legal advice. For detailed legal advice on your particular situation, you will need to call and set up a consultation. If you have any questions about filing for divorce, please call us today and one of our Alabama divorce lawyers will be happy to answer them.
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!