Auburn, Alabama Divorce Attorneys
While divorce is the last thing that couples are thinking about at the time they say “I do,” divorce is one of the most common reasons for people to get involved in the family court system and seek legal representation. Indeed, while marriages can be entered into in Alabama simply by paying a small marriage license fee, the process of dissolving a marriage is much more legally intensive.
At the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, LLP, we know that divorce is something you haven’t planned for. If you find yourself thinking about divorce, ready to pursue divorce, or if you have recently been served a petition for divorce, our experienced Alabama divorce lawyers are here to help you understand Alabama divorce laws and your options, as well as how to secure the best outcome for your divorce case.
Helping You With Complex Issues During Your Divorce
For the vast majority of couples who choose to dissolve their marriages in Alabama, the process is not as simple as merely parting ways; instead, there are various issues in a divorce that must be resolved before the divorce will be complete. These include:
- Division of property and debt. During the course of a marriage, all property that is acquired by either spouse becomes marital property, even if it is bought in the name of just one of the parties. Further, all marital property is subject to division that is equitable at the time of a marriage’s end, but not necessarily equal. Understanding the difference, and what type of property you may be able to keep, as well as how to negotiate a fair property division settlement can be complex. Our lawyers represent you every step of the way, and can even litigate on your behalf should it come to that.
Debt and asset division is a key issue in divorce, and you have to know what you have before you can figure out how much you’ll get. You may also want to discuss whether each asset was brought into the marriage by one party or accumulated during the marriage.
- Spousal maintenance/support. Another common issue in a divorce is spousal support, also called spousal maintenance or alimony. This type of support is paid by one party to the other in order to provide financial assistance needed following the separation and dissolution of marriage. Spousal support is appropriate when one party to the marriage is financially dependent upon the other. When deciding whether or not spousal support is appropriate, and if so, how much the award will be, the court will consider a number of factors – some of which are, how long the couple has been married, the standard of living established during the course of the marriage, the age and condition of each spouse, each spouse’s contributions to the marriage and other party, and more.
- Child custody and child support. More than any other issue in a divorce, who will have custody of a child or children is probably the most emotionally charged. Indeed, even when parents are ready to say goodbye to one another and end their marriage, neither is typically prepared for the effect that the dissolution of marriage may have on their child/children.
Child support is largely determined by how much parenting time each party has and how much money each parent earns. However, you may be in a slightly different position if your marriage is considered a high net worth divorce. When your combined income exceeds the limits set by the state’s child support calculator, you have to negotiate additional child support with the other party’s attorney.
Parents are highly encouraged to create a child custody arrangement by working together to form a parenting plan that can be submitted to a court. If parents are unable to work together to do this, the issue of custody of a child will be decided by the court, which will make the determination based on the child’s best interests. In regards to child support, both parents have a duty to provide for their child financially. When parents are not living together, the non-custodial party will be ordered by the court to make child support payments on a recurring basis.
Filing for Divorce in Auburn, Alabama
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.
Get Your Documents in Order
One thing that surprises most people is just how much paperwork is involved in a divorce. Be ready to prove who you are, the validity of your marriage, and your financial situation multiple times before you walk away with a divorce decree. Start a file of important documents, including:
- Birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, and other types of identification.
- Your marriage certificate.
- Bank statements.
- Retirement account statements.
- Records for all of your shared and separate credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and other financial accounts.
- Tax returns for the last three to five years.
Some of these documents must be originals, such as birth certificates and marriage certificates. For others, copies work just as well. Your attorney will be able to tell you exactly what you need.
Think About Your Exit Plan
No matter how amicable you expect your divorce to be, you never know how someone will react to finding out their marriage is about to end. Do you want to stay in the marital home? Are you planning to move out and find your own place? Are you financially secure enough to live on your own income?
In addition to the issues above, which will need to be resolved before a divorce can be finalized, it is important that a party seeking a divorce understand things like grounds for divorce and filing requirements in Alabama.
The state of Alabama recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce.
A no-fault divorce is the easiest to obtain. This type of divorce does not require either party to show proof that the other is responsible for the marriage breaking down, and it can be based on one of the following grounds:
- The marriage is “irretrievably broken” to the point where attempts at reconciliation are futile (i.e., the spouses have irreconcilable differences);
- The temperaments of the spouses are incompatible to the point where they can no longer live together (i.e., the spouses don’t get along anymore).
Irretrievable breakdown and incompatibility are the most common grounds used for a divorce in Alabama.
While most couples pursue a divorce on no-fault grounds, it is possible to file for divorce on fault grounds as well. If a spouse wants the court to grant a divorce based on the behavior of the other spouse, they can ask for a fault-based divorce. This type of divorce is more complicated, and it requires the plaintiff spouse to prove that the defendant spouse engaged in certain behaviors that warrant the divorce.
These grounds are found in Alabama Code Section 30-2-1, and include adultery, voluntary abandonment, imprisonment, habitual drunkenness, insanity, domestic violence, and situations in which the woman in a marriage was pregnant at the time of the marriage and she failed to inform her husband.
No-Fault vs. Fault-Based Divorces in Alabama
The fact that Alabama allows no-fault divorces means that neither party can stop a divorce if the other is determined to go through with it. One spouse can slow it down and make it more unpleasant and expensive, and there are times when a court might even order a temporary separation before allowing a divorce to go through. But ultimately, a spouse who is determined can make a divorce happen, even if the other spouse fights them every step of the way.
In a large number of divorce cases, it makes sense to choose the no-fault option. There are some instances, however, when it might be beneficial for one spouse to seek a fault-based divorce. For example, one of the factors Alabama courts can consider when determining whether to award alimony (and how much is to be awarded) is the conduct of both spouses and whether that conduct led to the divorce. So, if adultery was the cause of the divorce, this may be one of the factors considered when the court decides if alimony should be awarded.
In addition to establishing grounds for divorce, you must also meet residency requirements in order to be able to file for divorce. You will need to be a resident of Alabama for at least six months before filing your divorce complaint.
Reaching Agreement on Issues in Divorce
If you and your spouse have decided to separate, a breakdown in communication may be a major issue in your relationship, which can make reaching an agreement on the issues listed above very difficult. That being said, working with your spouse to negotiate a divorce settlement out of court is strongly recommended. Settling your divorce out of court is ideal, as this can be a more amicable and less stressful process, and saves time and money. What’s more, if your case goes to court, a court will be responsible for determining issues, and you will have little say in what the court’s decision is.
The compassionate Alabama family law attorneys at the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, LLP, can represent you in negotiations with your spouse, and help you to create a divorce settlement that works for both of you. Should compromise be impossible, our experienced family law and divorce attorneys can also represent you in the courtroom.
Contact the Compassionate and Experienced Divorce Attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson Today
The attorneys of the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, LLP, have been litigating divorce cases for decades. For help from a trusted, highly skilled legal professional when filing for divorce, contact the law offices of Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson, LLP today at (334) 821-3892, or send us a message online. We provide client-focused, personalized legal services.
We also handle high net worth divorce cases.