You do not have to hire a lawyer to obtain an uncontested divorce in Alabama. You are allowed to represent yourself. However, with an uncontested divorce, also called no-fault divorce, hiring an attorney is generally less expensive since it is processed through the courts quicker than contested divorces and there are usually not any hearings.
You can try to prepare and file the proper paperwork on your own and may be successful, depending on how savvy you are, but some counties are more difficult than others. Every county has their own local requirements, so one county might make it less difficult than another. This is why it is important to know the local rules in your county. For example, in Etowah and Madison Counties, they sometimes require a hearing in ALL or some uncontested divorces, even though both spouses are in agreement. Also, some counties have judges that want specific clauses in various documents that are filed that most other counties do not want. In all counties, if the paperwork you prepared and filed is not what the judge wants, then they will usually dismiss your case. This is why if you can afford the attorney fees, it is almost always recommended to hire a divorce lawyer, even for simple uncontested divorce filings.
While you may not technically have to hire an attorney to file your uncontested divorce, having an experienced contested divorce lawyer can make the process easier, quicker, and in many cases cheaper for you. They will bring their knowledge of the law and local court procedures to advise and serve you better. Having a lawyer to represent you in your divorce can help ensure that the correct paperwork is sent to the court and that it is submitted in a timely manner. But more than that, an experienced lawyer will know the correct legal language to use in your filings. Even if you and your spouse are in total agreement about the terms of the divorce, and even if you turn in the correct paperwork on time to the court, the judge could still reject it because the content was not legally sufficient to grant a divorce.
There can be more to filing for divorce than filing the standard forms like a Complaint, Answer and Waiver, Testimony, and Settlement Agreement. There are also certain forms and documents required in cases with children that are sometimes called child support forms. You may need to draw up and file a quitclaim deed in the local Probate Court in order to convey joint property from one spouse to another. You may need to divide your 401(k) or other joint retirement account, which will usually require a special order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). These are just a few examples of why it’s important, but not mandatory, to retain an Alabama divorce attorney to help with your no fault divorce.
Representing yourself in court proceedings is called acting as a “pro se” litigant. Pro se litigants have a right to file for an uncontested divorce themselves. But you should be aware that the court clerks will hold pro se litigants to the same standards of licensed attorneys in terms of knowing what to file, where to file it, how the documents should be worded, and the applicable laws to apply. You may be tempted to ask the judge or court staff for guidance. While judges and clerk’s offices are generally friendly and can offer you some basic information, it is against the law for them to give you legal advice and they cannot tell you how to prepare your documents. In most counties, they will just tell you to get a local divorce lawyer.
Making mistakes in your paperwork can lead to serious delays in obtaining your divorce decree. Mishandling something as serious as a divorce could cost you more in the long run than hiring a divorce lawyer from the start. That is why it’s imperative that you retain a local Alabama divorce attorney to represent you. He or she can ensure that all local requirements are met in your uncontested divorce and that you obtain your divorce decree as quickly and easily as possible. For these reasons, it is best to use an actual Alabama attorney and not go with some online document preparation company.
Our divorce lawyers in Montgomery, Birmingham, or anywhere else across the State of Alabama currently charge flat fees. There is also a filing fee that the local courts charge for filing a divorce and this is set by each individual county. If you contact our law firm, we can tell you the filing fee where you live.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!