One question that many clients have when they ask about divorce is how their property will be divided. This question can cause a lot of stress during the divorce process, but the best way to ensure both parties get what property they want is to file an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce means both parties work out issues like property division before they file anything. This is the quickest and cheapest way to get a divorce.
If both spouses cannot come to an agreement on how to divide their assets, they cannot file an uncontested divorce. They must file something called a contested divorce, which is how most divorces are filed. This is a much slower and expensive process that could result in the parties reaching an agreement but if no agreement can ultimately be reached then there will be a trial before the judge to decide all marital issues. This process can cost thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and can last months or even years. Not to mention the stress that comes with the uncertainty of how the property will be divided. In a contested divorce, the judge gets to decide who gets what after hearing arguments from both of your divorce attorneys.
Alabama law has two categories of property for divorcing couples, separate property and marital property. With some exceptions, anything that either spouse owned before the marriage is considered separate property and not marital property. Conversely, usually any assets that either spouse earned, purchased, or otherwise obtained during the marriage is considered marital property. Examples of marital property can include bank accounts, cash stored in the home, investments, retirement contributed during the marriage, business assets, real estate, vehicles, or any other thing of value acquired during the marriage.
Alabama divides property under the legal doctrine of “equitable distribution.” The goal in this approach is to have a fair and reasonable distribution of the couple’s property. However, an equitable distribution of property does not always mean an equal distribution of property. Alabama law gives judges the ability to consider many factors in determining how to divide a couple’s property including duration of the marriage, which party will be the custodial parent of any children from the marriage, each party’s monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage, the earning capacity of each party, whether one party was a homemaker or “stay-at-home” parent for minor children, what kind of financial state each party will be in after the divorce, and possibly any damaging behaviors exhibited by the parties leading up to or during the divorce process such as infidelity, abuse, or draining joint bank accounts.
The most effective way to know how your property will be divided in a way acceptable to you is by agreeing with your spouse on who gets what and filing an uncontested divorce. This helps eliminate a lot of uncertainty in the divorce process, as well as saving thousands of dollars and lots of time and stress. Even if you agree on who gets what, it is still important to retain an experience local divorce attorney to make sure all of your paperwork is in order and gets filed correctly. This can speed up the process and help to reduce the stress involved in getting your divorce decree and moving on with your life.