Although the end of a marriage typically includes disagreements and hurt feelings, Alabama law allows spouses to divorce without a trial or adversarial proceedings. In uncontested divorces, spouses voluntarily enter into a settlement agreeing to distribution of property, alimony and child custody. If the court approves the couple's agreement, the divorce may be granted in as soon as 30 days.
Filing for Uncontested Divorce
When filing an uncontested divorce in Alabama, you must file a complaint for divorce noting your grounds for dissolution of the marriage. In Alabama, the grounds for a no-fault divorce are typically incompatibility or irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. In fault-based divorces, in which it is alleged that misconduct on the part of one spouse caused the end of the marriage, grounds include adultery, imprisonment, habitual drunkenness or drug use, and physical abuse among others. The complaint must also confirm you are an Alabama resident. As federal law provides active-duty service members additional time to respond to a petition for divorce, your complaint must also state whether your spouse is serving in the military. When submitting the complaint for divorce, you must include a vital statistics form used by the state for record keeping, as well as a filing fee. If you and your spouse have children, the court will require you and your spouse to attend a "Children Cope with Divorce" seminar and submit additional paperwork to the court regarding your income and child support.
Agreement of the Parties
At the time the complaint is filed, you may settle the divorce as uncontested by submitting a marital settlement agreement to the court, sometimes referred to as an "Agreement of the Parties." The agreement must address relevant issues that the court would otherwise decide, including child custody and visitation, child support, alimony and the division of marital property. The agreement must be signed by both you and your spouse and certified by a notary public, if required by the court. Given the availability of online legal services and information, retaining a lawyer for a divorce is often not required. However, you or your spouse may retain an attorney for legal advice and representation, although the same lawyer cannot represent you both.
After the agreement is signed by both parties, you submit it to the court for final approval. If the court approves the settlement agreement, it will grant the divorce. However, the court must wait 30 days from the date a divorce complaint is filed before it may grant a divorce and it may take longer depending on the judge's caseload. Once the judge accepts the agreement of the parties, she will issue a final divorce decree, which completes the divorce. In many cases, you do not need to appear in court.
The judge does not automatically accept all divorce settlement agreements. He may reject your agreement for a simple technical reason, such as both spouses did not sign it or it was not notarized. These minor errors can be easily corrected and the court clerk may even alert you to the problem before it gets to the judge. The judge also may reject the settlement agreement if it does not address all issues relevant to the divorce. For example, if the couple has children and the agreement does not address child custody or support, the court would likely reject the agreement and require the parties to submit a new one addressing the missing components.