Frequently Asked Family Law Questions
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How Do I Get the Divorce Process Started?
It depends on which type of divorce you are doing. If you are pursuing an uncontested divorce (where you and your spouse have reached an agreement concerning all marital issues) then you can fill out our questionnaire, call us with any questions you have, and basically mail or email us the questionnaire, pay the attorney’s fees, and we will contact you when we receive everything. If you are seeking a contested divorce (meaning that you and your spouse have not reached an agreement or they cannot be located) then you will need to call the office for a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys.
How Much Does It Cost?
For a contested divorce, you will need to call and speak with one of our attorneys for a quote. However, our Birmingham and Huntsville divorce lawyers usually work with you to structure a low, flat fee instead of expensive retainers that are billed out of at an expensive hourly rate. For a simple uncontested divorce, it is a flat attorney’s fee of $390 for an uncontested divorce without minor children of the marriage and $490 if there are minor children of the marriage.
The uncontested divorce may require additional fees if there are substantial property or tax considerations involved, business interests, paternity issues, retirement issues, or any other complex issues that would require more time of the attorney. There is also a filing fee that every county charges when you file in and has to be paid to the court at the time the divorce is filed. This is not money that we get paid, it goes to the Alabama courts when the divorce is filed and is separate from the attorney’s fees. They usually are between $150 and $330, with each county’s filing fee being different. Call our divorce attorney today and we can tell you what the filing fee is in your county.
Where do I file my divorce?
As long as you or hour spouse is a resident of Alabama, then you can file here. To be a resident, you have to have resided in the State for at least six months prior to filing a case. If you both are residents of Alabama, then you can technically file in whichever county either of you live in. For example, if you live in Shelby County and your spouse lives in Madison County, then you can technically file your divorce in either county. However, some counties like to discourage any filings when neither party is a resident and it is ultimately up to the particular judges in the county you are filing in to allow non-residents to file in their courts. Therefore, you can usually file in any county you want (if both of you are residents of the State of Alabama), but some counties do discourage such filings. If you are interested in filing in a county that neither of you reside in, then feel free to call us today to find out if the county you are wanting to file in discourages such filings or not.
To file in Alabama, at least one of you has to be a resident. If one of you resides outside of the State of Alabama, then your divorce will have to be filed in the county that the Alabama resident lives in. So if you live in Jefferson County and your spouse lives in California, then you have to file in either Jefferson County or California. When you call our Montgomery divorce attorneys we can give you advice on where in Alabama to file your divorce.
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is where both you and your spouse have reached an agreement about all of your marital issues such as custody, child support, division of property, and all other issues. If you have reached such an agreement prior to filing for divorce, then you can file your settlement agreement (signed by both spouses) at the time your divorce is filed. Since an agreement has been filed at the time the divorce is filed, then the divorce begins as an uncontested divorce, meaning that there are no contested matters since everything has been agreed upon and put down in a contract or settlement agreement.
You typically hire a Birmingham divorce attorney to type up all of your divorce documents that are required by your particular county (most counties have their own local requirements) and you get them signed and your attorney files them with the court. Since an agreement is filed at the time the divorce is filed, a judge will usually sign your divorce decree (as long as they approve your agreement, which they usually do unless you are agreeing to something that might be unfair, unlawful, or otherwise meet with the disapproval of the judge in your case) without the need for any hearings since there are no issues to be resolved at a potential hearing. It usually takes about 6-10 weeks for a judge to sign your divorce decree and for you to be officially divorced. It takes this long because the court’s cannot officially order you divorced until 30 days have passed from the time of the divorce being filed. This waiting period is why it takes this long to get your divorce decree in an uncontested divorce.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
An uncontested divorce usually takes about 6-10 weeks after everything has been signed by both spouses and filed with the court. A contested divorce can take anywhere from 30 days to months or years, depending on if there is a trial or not. If both parties cannot reach an agreement during the contested divorce and a trial is necessary to determine the contested issues, then it can take much longer than an uncontested divorce.
What is a contested divorce?
A contested divorce is any divorce action that is filed without an agreement. All divorces are initiated by the filing of a document called a Complaint. Once the divorce is filed without an agreement, the Complaint must be served on the other spouse, usually this is done by a private company that goes out and personally hand delivers or serves the spouse with the Complaint. Once served, the spouse has 30 days to file an Answer. If they do file within this time period, then your contested divorce will periodically be set for hearings, mediation, and other settings in order to see if both of you can reach an agreement on some of the contested issues. If certain issues are still contested after many attempts at an agreement, then the case will be set for trial and a judge will decide all of your contested issues for you and your spouse. At this trial, both spouses will call witnesses and present evidence of why they should be awarded whatever it is that they are wanting. This process can be very expensive (attorney’s fees are usually thousands of dollars) and can take a long time to get resolved.
What is custody?
There are two types of custody in Alabama, physical and legal custody. Legal custody is who has the rights to make decisions for the child and is usually given jointly in a divorce. The physical custody is who the child is actually living with most of the time, that parent has sole physical custody and the other parent has visitation rights such as every other weekend. In rare cases, both parents spend equal amounts of time with the children in what some call “shared” custody, this is basically joint physical custody.
What Can I do if My Spouse Does Not Do What They Were Ordered to Do in the Divorce?
If your spouse was ordered to do something and refuses to do it, then you can take them back to the judge that ordered it and they can find them in Contempt of Court. This means that the judge can make them do it or punish them for not doing it. Sometimes this could mean making them pay fines or additional costs. It could also mean ordering them to jail in cases where someone is not paying child support or can do the thing they’re ordered to do but is refusing to do it anyway for no good reason.
Can We go Back and Modify What We Agreed to in our Prior Divorce?
Sure, this is called a joint petition to modify if both parties are in agreement. So if the two of you need to change the primary custody from the mother to the father so that the child can be enrolled in another school system, it can be a matter of mostly paperwork and there is usually not a hearing. If the parties are not in agreement, and you just want to have a judge modify the old decree based on something going on that’s new, you can do that but there must be evidence shown at a hearing about such new substantial changes that have happened.
Can My Husband Adopt a Child if the Biological Father is in Agreement?
If the biological father is in agreement, then you can do something called a step-parent adoption. This is where no one is contesting the adoption and doesn’t require much court. Once filed, there is a person appointed to look after the child’s best interest called a guardian ad litem. This person looks into the prospective parents home situation and recommends the adoption take place. As long as the biological parents are in agreement then it can occur without too much difficulty in the Probate Court where the child resides.
How much will I pay in child support?
In Alabama, there is a formula that is used by the courts to determine how much one party is to pay in child support to the other. This is called the child support guidelines and is based primarily on both spouses gross monthly incomes. The courts will usually go by what these guidelines say, but if you wish to agree to a different amount you can do so in your settlement agreement but if a judge feels that the amount you have agreed to is unfair then they might not sign off on your agreement and a hearing will need to be held or you will need to amend the documents appropriately. Typically, if you are close to the guidelines then it is alright, but if you agree to an amount that is substantially lower or higher than the guidelines it can cause delays in your divorce being finalized and may not be approved. Our local divorce attorneys will perform the guidelines for you in an uncontested divorce and it is usually best to go by their calculations if possible.
When can I remarry?
You cannot remarry another person for a period of 60 days from the date your divorce decree is entered.
What if my spouse refuses to sign the uncontested divorce papers?
If they will not sign the papers then you and your spouse are not in agreement (since they are not willing to sign the agreement) and you can wait to see if they change their mind or you can file for a contested divorce.
Can I Still Get a Divorce if I don't know where my spouse is?
If you cannot locate your spouse, then you will need to file a contested divorce and we will try to locate them ourselves or have the process server attempt to find them as well. If they still cannot be located and served properly, then there is a mechanism for getting divorced that involves your local newspaper and usually takes a few extra months. This method basically allows for you to put an ad in the paper notifying your spouse of the divorce filing, giving them notice in the local paper. If your spouse avoids service by not coming to his/her door or hiding from attempts at service, then this method of service may be used as well in order for you to get your divorce completed. If you are in need of a Gadsden divorce attorney or a divorce lawyer anywhere else in the State of Alabama we can help.
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It depends on which type of divorce you are doing. If you are pursuing an uncontested divorce (where you and your spouse have reached an agreement concerning all marital issues) then you can fill out our questionnaire... Read more
For a contested divorce, you will need to call and speak with one of our attorneys for a quote. However, we usually work with you to structure a low, flat fee instead of expensive retainers that are billed out of at an expensive hourly rate... Read more
As long as you or hour spouse is a resident of Alabama, then you can file here. To be a resident, you have to have resided in the State for at least six months prior to filing a case. If you both are residents of Alabama, then... Read more
An uncontested divorce is where both you and your spouse have reached an agreement about all of your marital issues such as custody, child support, division of property, and all other issues. If you have reached such an agreement... Read more
An uncontested divorce usually takes about one or two months after everything has been signed by both spouses and filed with the court. A contested divorce can take anywhere from 30 days to months or years, depending on... Read more