How to File for Divorce

Are you considering getting a divorce? It is not something that you are going through alone.

Many people have found themself in a similar situation. According to data from Forbes, approximately 40 percent of first-marriages end in divorce—and the rate is significantly higher for second and third marriages. It is crucial that you know how to file for divorce. At The Harris Firm, LLC, we help clients navigate through all aspects of the divorce process.Within this blog post, our Alabama divorce attorney provides an overview of the key things to know about filing for divorce.

Step #1: Ensure You Meet the Requirements to Get Divorced in Alabama

Before you file for divorce in Alabama, it is imperative that you ensure that you meet the basic legal requirements to file.

Divorce spelt w/ rings You can seek a divorce in the state as long as you have a lawful marriage and you meet the following two key requirements:

  • Residency: Under Alabama law (Ala. Code § 30-2-5), at least one spouse be a resident of the state for a minimum of six months before filing for divorce. To be clear, the state residency must be bona fide—meaning the individual genuinely lives in and intends to remain in Alabama. It does not matter where you and your spouse initially got married. As long as either party has been a resident of Alabama for the last six months, the state has jurisdiction. You should file in the county where you or your spouse resides.
  • Grounds: Alabama recognizes both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce. In a no-fault divorce, you can cite “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” or that there has been an “incompatibility” between the spouses. l For fault-based divorces, recognized grounds include, but are not limited to, adultery, habitual drunkenness or drug use, physical or emotional abuse, or abandonment. The chosen ground must be substantiated with evidence if contested in court. Notably, the vast majority of divorces in Alabama are finalized on a no-fault basis.

Step #2: Determine Where to File Your Divorce Case

Identifying the correct venue to file your divorce case in Alabama is crucial. As a general rule, you should file in the county where you or your spouse resides. If your spouse has moved out of Alabama, you can still file in the county where you live. The choice ensures that the court has jurisdiction over your case and can legally enforce the divorce decree. Notably, the first spouse who lawfully files for a divorce will generally determine the jurisdiction for the case. Filing in the right county prevents unnecessary delays and other legal complications. If you have any questions about where you should file your divorce petition, our Alabama divorce attorney can help.

Step #3: Complete and Submit the Relevant Paperwork

Divorce can be a paperwork intensive process. You must complete and submit all of the required paperwork in order for a divorce to move forward in Alabama. Key documents that you may need to provide as part of your divorce case include:

  • Complaint: Broadly defined, the complaint is the initial document that starts the divorce proceedings. It should include basic information about both spouses, such as names, addresses, and the date of the marriage. Beyond that, it must also state the grounds for divorce, whether no-fault (most cases) or at-fault (a few cases). The initial divorce complaint may also list any demands regarding property division, child custody, child support, and other issues. It is this document that formally requests the court to end the marriage.
  • Summons: Alongside the complaint, a summons must be filed. The summons is a document issued by the court that formally notifies your spouse that a divorce action has been initiated against them. If you and your spouse are filing for divorce together, the summons issue is relatively straightforward. However, if you are filing for divorce without your spouse, you will need to serve the paperwork upon him or her. Serving the summons properly is vital—otherwise the proceedings will not be able to move forward.
  • An Affidavit of Residency: An affidavit of residency is a sworn statement confirming at least one spouse meets the residency requirements for filing a divorce in Alabama. It must be signed in the presence of a notary public. The document is crucial as it substantiates the court’s jurisdiction over your divorce case. Without proven residency, the Alabama county court will not have the authority to hear the case.
  • Marital Settlement Agreement (Uncontested Divorce): If you are getting an uncontested divorce and you have already worked out an agreement, you can file your marital settlement agreement along with your other divorce paperwork. This document outlines all the terms of the agreement between the spouses and, once approved by the court, becomes part of the final divorce decree. It simplifies the process and often leads to a quicker final resolution. An experienced Alabama divorce lawyer can help you with an uncontested divorce.

Note: There are filing fees associated with divorce in Alabama. After preparing the documents and submitting them to the appropriate county court clerk’s office, you need to be sure that you pay all required filing fees. Those fees vary somewhat from county to county. They are usually between $200 and $350 dollars. Be sure to keep copies of all documents for your records.

Filing for Divorce is Complicated: A Top-Tier Attorney Can Help

Going through a divorce puts an enormous amount of pressure on a person. It is entirely normal to feel stressed out and unsure of what to do. There can be a lot of paperwork involved in the process. Of course, a divorce is not primarily about the paperwork—it is about finding real solutions to the actual family issues that affect your life. An experienced Alabama divorce lawyer can review your case and help you develop a comprehensive strategy to protect your rights and secure the best outcome. Along with other issues, an Alabama divorce attorney will assist with:

  • Property Division: Dividing assets and debts accrued during the marriage is one of the most contentious aspects of divorce. Alabama follows the principle of equitable distribution, meaning the division must be fair—though not necessarily equal. A top-tier Alabama divorce attorney will ensure your rights are protected.
  • Spousal Support (Alimony): Spousal support may be awarded in some cases in Alabama. Determining whether spousal support is warranted—and how much and for how long—can be an especially challenging, highly contentious issue. Whether you are filing for alimony or may be required to pay alimony, a divorce attorney can help.
  • Child Custody & Visitation: For parents of young kids or teenagers, divorce can be exceptionally hard. Alabama is a best interests of the child jurisdiction. An Alabama divorce attorney can help advocate for your parental rights while ensuring what is best for your kid.
  • Child Support: The non-custodial parent may be required to provide financial support to their child. An Alabama divorce attorney can help you navigate our state’s child support guidelines—factoring in each parent’s income, the needs of the children, and any special circumstances that might impact the case.

Contact Our Alabama Divorce Lawyer Today

At The Harris Firm, LLC, our Alabama divorce attorney is a skilled, experienced, and solutions-forward advocate for clients. If you have any questions about how to file for divorce, we are here to help. Call us at (205) 201-1789 or contact us online for a completely confidential initial case review. We are a statewide family and divorce law firm providing the guidance you can trust.

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