What is the first step towards getting a divorce

Perhaps the most important first step towards getting a divorce is for you and your spouse to decide whether the divorce will be contested or uncontested. Uncontested divorces are filed when the spouses agree on the need to divorce, the division of their property, and, if applicable, child custody and support matters. In Alabama, uncontested divorces are sometimes called no fault divorces. Generally, uncontested divorces are less expensive and are processed through the courts quicker than contested divorces. First Step in Getting a DivorceBecause you both agree on everything, cheap and easy uncontested divorces are almost always the smoothest and simplest way to get divorced.

There is also a filing fee, which for an uncontested divorce in Alabama varies by county ranging from around $200 to over $350.  We have experienced divorce attorneys in Montgomery and in other cities across Alabama that can help advise you on how to proceed.

The spouse that files for divorce is called the Plaintiff. The responding spouse is called the Defendant. Some grounds for a no fault divorce in Alabama include: the marriage is irretrievably broken down, spousal incompatibility, and voluntary separation for more than a year. You or your spouse must have resided in the state of Alabama for at least six months. You can file a Complaint for Divorce in the Circuit Court of 1) the county where the Defendant resides, 2) in the county where the Plaintiff resides if the Defendant is not a resident of Alabama, or 3) in the county where the spouses resided at the time of separation. If a Plaintiff cannot find their spouse, they can publish a notice of divorce in a local newspaper of general circulation for four consecutive weeks. This serves as constructive notice to the Defendant.

For uncontested divorces without minor children, the Plaintiff will need to submit a Complaint for Divorce and Summons to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. To speed up the process, the Defendant can sign an Answer and Waiver of Service form. After the Complaint for Divorce is filed, a 30-day “cooling off” period has to take place before a judge may issue a final divorce decree. In an uncontested divorce, testimony may be taken via affidavits, depositions, or by the court clerk. The Complaint for Divorce is usually filed alongside a Marital Settlement agreement which lays out the “who gets what” terms of the divorce for the court. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint, the Defendant replies with the Answer to Compliant for Divorce. Testimony is then taken where grounds for the divorce are declared. 

In cases involving minor children where child support is requested, the Plaintiff must also file several forms related to child support. The Child Support Information Sheet provides information about child support in Alabama and also both parties must file an income affidavit. Other forms may be required related to child support and compliance. The Plaintiff also must file a Standing Pre-Trial Order, which prohibits the spouses from taking a minor out of state and from harassing each other while waiting for the divorce decree.

If you decide on a contested divorce, eventually there will also be a hearing before a judge where you will both make your case for what you want and why. This can take a year or longer during which time the parties try to reach an agreement through such methods as mediation or negotiation. Then, once the trial does occur, the judge will often take the case “under advisement” and take a few more months to reach a decision on who gets what. This can make the divorce process well over a year in some cases. Since your contested divorce attorneys will be doing such things as gathering evidence, filing motions, setting up negotiation attempts, accompanying you to court, the attorney’s fees for a contested divorce can cost several thousand dollars.

At the hearing, the parties may present evidence such as documents, expert testimony, and witness testimony to support their case. The judge then takes all of this into consideration and makes a ruling. Once the judge has signed a divorce decree the parties must follow the ruling. You can file a Motion to Alter, Amend, or Vacate the judge’s ruling within thirty days of the ruling, but both spouses would have to agree on what you are asking for.

If you decide to pursue an uncontested divorce, please contact our divorce lawyers in Birmingham or wherever you live to speak with one of our experienced attorneys on the best ways to move your case forward.

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