An uncontested divorce usually takes about five to eight weeks after everything has been signed and properly executed by both spouses and filed with the court. This can vary depending on the circumstances of the particular judge that is assigned your case (they could be on vacation or sick, or there can be other issues with the judge’s office that can make them fall behind sometimes), but it is almost always a much faster turnaround time than filing a contested divorce.
Some states are hesitant to issue a divorce decree too quickly and prefer the couple have a “cooling off period” after filing the divorce. Alabama is one of those states, and requires a thirty (30) day “cooling off period” after you file the divorce, even if it is uncontested. The intent of the requirement is to make sure both parties have a chance to sleep on it, reflect, and be sure that divorce is what they really want. However, the “cooling off period” is so short that it usually does not have a significant impact on the time it takes to get your decree from the judge, especially compared to how long it takes to finalize a contested divorce.
Thirty days from the time your divorce is filed is the fastest turnaround legally possible for a divorce in Alabama. This is due to the aforementioned cooling off requirement, but practically speaking, most uncontested divorces take that long to process through the courts anyway. A quick turnaround time is also dependent upon all of the parties’ paperwork being filed on time and correctly. That is why it is so important to hire a local, experienced divorce attorney to handle your case. They can make sure everything is in order when it goes to the court to ensure the fastest possible processing time.
A contested divorce can sometimes only last about four to six months, but that is usually where the other party doesn’t participate or cannot be found. When a contested divorce is filed, the filing party is required to “serve” the paperwork on the non-filing spouse. If the non-filing spouse cannot be found, then you can get your divorce in a matter of months. If they are found, then when the non-filing spouse is “served”, they have thirty days to respond to the Complaint. This can overlap with the required thirty day “cooling off period”, so if the parties reach an agreement quickly, the non-filing spouse can go to the courthouse as soon as possible after the filing to sign their side of the paperwork. But usually an agreement is not reached that quickly if a contested divorce has been filed, which is why it generally takes much longer than filing the case as an uncontested divorce from the beginning.
There is always at least one hearing and usually many more in a contested divorce as well. If both spouses have an attorney and the parties cannot reach an agreement during the contested divorce then it can sometimes take a year or longer for the divorce to be resolved by a trail before the judge. The judges sometimes set contested divorce cases on a Status Docket, which is a court date where all pending contested cases are called one at a time for the judge to be told the status of the case. The parties are encouraged to go in the hallway and work out an agreement or ask the judge for any motions or other pleadings they may have in trying to resolve the matter. If after a certain number of attempts to reach an agreement no agreement can be reached, the judge will order something called Mediation, where the parties are helped by a professional Mediator to try to find some common ground. If Mediation is unsuccessful, then the judge will set the case for trial and decide the issues for both parties.
Our local divorce attorneys can help you navigate through all the moving parts of the divorce process. Making mistakes in your paperwork filings can lead to serious delays in obtaining your divorce decree, even in a simple uncontested divorce. That is why it is so imperative that you retain a local Alabama divorce lawyer to represent you. He or she can ensure that all of the local requirements are met in your county and that you obtain your decree as quickly and easily as possible.