What is a Complaint in an Alabama divorce case and when is it filed? In order to get divorced in Alabama, the party wishing to get divorced, the Plaintiff, must file a document known as a Complaint in the Circuit Court. The Complaint will identify both spouses and will state the grounds, or reasons, for the divorce. The most common ground for a no-fault divorce in Shelby County is that there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage to where attempting reconciliation is not in their best interest, but there are many other grounds for divorce. Some of these may include adultery, abuse, or an incompatibility of temperament to where the spouses can no longer live together.
The Complaint is also where the Plaintiff will list what they are seeking as relief. This is where they would list their terms for issues like alimony, child support, child custody and visitation, and the division of marital property. The division of marital property concerns real and personal property or assets like their home, land, cars, cash, bank accounts, investments, etc. In Alabama, the Circuit Court judge will divide the marital property equitably rather than equally. Equitable division means that the judge will divide the property as reasonably and fairly as possible, but equal distribution is not guaranteed. The Complaint may also include any other requests. For example, the Plaintiff could make a request for a name change to restore their maiden name in an uncontested divorce in Jefferson County, Alabama.
To file a Complaint in a divorce case in Bessemer or anywhere else in Jefferson County, the Plaintiff must have resided in Alabama for at least six months before filing. Divorce Complaints are filed in Circuit Court, but the location of the Circuit Court can be decided based on a few specific circumstances. The Complaint can be filed in the county where the Defendant resides, or it can be filed in the county where the Plaintiff resides if the Defendant resides in another state. If the spouses are separated, the Complaint may also be filed in the county where they resided at the time they decided to separate.
Once the Complaint is filed, the other spouse, the Defendant, must be served proper notice of the divorce proceeding. This means that a copy of the Complaint must be delivered to the Defendant in person, by certified mail, or by publication if the Defendant cannot be located. The Defendant will then reply with their Answer to the Complaint. When the Defendant’s Answer has been filed, the parties will prepare for trial by performing discovery, interviewing witnesses, and brainstorming their best approach.
If the Defendant fails to respond to the Complaint or appear in court, then the judge may grant a default divorce, which awards the Plaintiff a divorce and grants all of the terms and obligations that they listed in their Complaint. However, Alabama has a 30 day “cooling off” period, which mandates that a divorce proceeding cannot be decided before 30 days have passed from the date the Complaint was filed. After 30 days have passed, the judge will grant a default divorce, or the judge will hear testimony from the parties that are present in court concerning the terms and obligations of their Birmingham divorce. Then, the judge will issue the divorce decree, which finalizes the divorce and states the terms and obligations that the parties are now legally bound to abide by.
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!