If you live in Alabama and you’re considering filing for divorce, keep in mind that either you or your spouse must have been a legal resident of the county where you intend to file for at least six months. Alabama allows petitioners for divorce to file either a fault or no-fault divorce. For legal purposes, the spouse who files for divorce is the plaintiff and the spouse who responds to the complaint is the respondent.
Common Reasons to File a Fault Divorce
If you file a fault divorce and the family law judge agrees with your reasoning, he or she may make the divorce settlement more agreeable to you than your spouse. Typical reasons that people consider this approach include:
- Couple has lived apart for at least two years
- Deviant sexual behavior
- Domestic violence
- General incompatibility
- Habitual use of drugs or drunkenness
- One spouse has already served two or more years of a minimum seven-year prison sentence
- One spouse has been confined to a mental facility for at least five years and does not have a reasonable hope of recovery
When you retain legal counsel from Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, we can advise you on whether filing at-fault divorce is in your best interest.
Complete a Complaint for an Alabama Divorce
After deciding whether to file a fault or no-fault divorce, the next step is to complete a form called a Complaint for Divorce. You also need to select the right complaint form for your situation. The simplest type of complaint is one for a couple with no minor children who don’t have assets or debts they’re asking the courts to divide. However, one purpose of the form is determining how much court involvement you need to proceed with the divorce. This could include issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, and division of debts and property.
When completing the complaint, be sure to include the full name and address of yourself and your spouse, if known. You should also include the date of birth for each of you as well as the date of your legal marriage, the approximate date of your separation, and how long you have lived apart. After completing the form, you need to sign it in the presence of a notary public.
Filing and Serving Your Divorce Forms
After a notary public has stamped and signed your document, you need to file it with the circuit court or the clerk’s office in the same county. You will need to hand a copy of your signed complaint to a clerk rather than mail it. He or she should date stamp your Complaint for Divorce and notate that the court has filed it. If you’re not sure how to go about this, look for a family law self-help desk in the court building.
Next, you need to serve the completed form on your spouse. The simplest way to do this is when your spouse or his or her attorney agree to accept the paperwork directly. If you go this route, make sure that the attorney or your spouse signs and dates a form called Acknowledgement of Receipt. This should be available from the circuit court.
Another option is to hire a process server to deliver the paperwork and obtain a signature. This person must return to the courthouse and request that the county clerk notate your file of the accepted delivery. In situations where a spouse refuses to accept or sign a complaint, family court may send it by certified mail. It’s only when these options fail, or you simply can’t locate your spouse, that you need to post a notice several times in a local publication.
Be Prepared to Make a Full Financial Disclosure
Depending on your county of residence, both you and your spouse may need to provide the other with the following financial information:
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Personal financial statements
- Tax returns
Get Legal Help Before You File
The experienced family law attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson are here to help you through a stressful and emotionally challenging situation. We encourage you to contact us at 334-821-3892 to request a free consultation before you take the first step in your divorce.