How to Divorce an Alabama Inmate

By Mary Jane Freeman

Divorcing an incarcerated spouse in Alabama is not much different than divorcing any spouse. The process is virtually identical. The only time your spouse's incarceration may affect the proceedings is when you serve him with divorce papers, as there might be a specific way to do this and service might require additional steps. A spouse's incarceration will also likely affect the court's ruling on custody and visitation.

Divorcing an incarcerated spouse in Alabama is not much different than divorcing any spouse. The process is virtually identical. The only time your spouse's incarceration may affect the proceedings is when you serve him with divorce papers, as there might be a specific way to do this and service might require additional steps. A spouse's incarceration will also likely affect the court's ruling on custody and visitation.

Grounds

The first step in divorcing your incarcerated spouse is filing a complaint for divorce with your local circuit court. In this complaint, you must list your grounds, or reasons, for seeking a divorce. Alabama recognizes both no-fault and fault grounds. Imprisonment is one of the many fault grounds available. This means you can cite your spouse's imprisonment as the reason for your divorce. To qualify for this ground, your spouse must be imprisoned, in or out of state, for at least two years and must be serving a sentence of seven years or more. If your spouse's imprisonment is not the reason for your divorce, or you don't want to use this ground, you can choose another fault ground, such as adultery or substance abuse, or one of the state's no-fault options, which include incompatibility and irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Service

After you file your divorce complaint, you must serve your spouse with a copy, along with any other required court paperwork, which informs him of the impending court action and the steps he must take. In Alabama, you can serve a spouse in a number of ways, including certified mail, delivery by deputy sheriff or private process server, or acceptance at the court clerk's office. Since your spouse is incarcerated, contact the prison where he resides to determine if there are any internal rules you must follow when serving him. Although Alabama law permits service through a variety of methods, the prison may have certain restrictions on service. For example, the prison might require that the local sheriff's office serve all complaints and direct them to a specific prison official.

Uncontested and Default Divorce

Once your spouse files an answer to your divorce complaint with the court, which he must do within 30 days of receiving the divorce paperwork, the court schedules a hearing, usually a few months in the future. At the hearing, the court will resolve any contested matters, such as those involving property division, child support and custody, and alimony. Since your spouse is incarcerated, an attorney might represent him at the hearing. However, if you and your spouse are in agreement on every issue, the court will deem your case uncontested and a hearing will likely be unnecessary. Instead, you and your spouse will submit your agreed-upon marital settlement agreement to the court for review. Upon approval, the court will finalize the divorce and incorporate the terms of your agreement into your divorce decree. If your spouse fails to respond to your divorce complaint and any subsequent notices, you will receive a divorce by default and likely receive everything you requested in your initial complaint for divorce.

Contested Divorce

If your case proceeds to a hearing because there are one or more contested issues, the court will have the final say once both sides present their cases. Your spouse's incarceration is not likely to be relevant to most of these matters, with the exception of child custody. Like all states, Alabama courts make custody and visitation determinations based on the best interests of the child. Alabama recognizes both legal custody, which is the right to make decisions concerning a child's upbringing, and physical custody, which is the right to provide a home for the child. Since your spouse is incarcerated, the court is likely to award you sole legal and physical custody of your child. When deciding whether or not to grant your spouse visitation rights, the court will evaluate several factors to determine if it is in you child's best interests, including your child's wishes, emotional needs and your child's relationship with the incarcerated parent.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorcing a South Carolina Inmate

References

Related articles

Time That it Takes to Finalize a Divorce in New Jersey

Filing for divorce can be a stressful and emotional process. Therefore, knowing how long you can expect your divorce case to take to become final can help you prepare. Many factors can determine how long it takes to finalize your divorce in New Jersey. For example, if you and your spouse do not agree about the important terms of your divorce -- including the division of assets and whether one spouse will receive spousal support -- it can lengthen the time it takes to finalize your divorce.

Can You Get a No Fault Divorce if the Spouse Is in Prison in Arkansas?

Arkansas does have a no-fault ground for divorce like other states, but not all marriage situations qualify to use it, even if one spouse is incarcerated. However, if you wish to divorce your spouse while he is in jail, you may qualify to file under fault grounds, though serving him with the divorce papers and finishing the case may be more complicated than if he was not in prison.

What If I Don't Want to Sign Divorce Papers?

Although divorce is often difficult to face, you must be involved in the court proceedings so you don't lose what you're entitled to. Your spouse doesn't need your participation to get a divorce from you. As long as he notifies you after filing the petition and follows the court's rules, he can get a final divorce decree in court.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Requirements for a Divorce in a Kentucky Prison

Filing for divorce in Kentucky is a relatively straightforward process, with the steps largely influenced by your ...

The Divorce Process in Florida If a Spouse Is Incarcerated

If you were already contemplating divorce, your spouse being sent to jail probably cements your decision. You might ...

Can You Get a Divorce in the State of Alabama If One Partner Refuses?

If your spouse is not cooperating in the divorce process, you may think you have no options to get out of an unhappy ...

How to Get a Divorce in North Carolina If You Were Married in Texas

North Carolina’s divorce laws are some of the most lenient in the country, and you can take advantage of them ...

Browse by category