Alabama State Legal Separation Laws

By Ciele Edwards

Married couples in Alabama who do not wish to divorce but no longer wish to live together have the option of petitioning the court for a legal separation. While Alabama law does not require couples to undergo a separation period prior to divorcing, a judge may order a temporary separation before granting a divorce. A couple has the right to separate at any time, but living at separate locations does not constitute a legal separation. A legal separation is similar to a divorce in that a court order dictates the terms of property division, child custody and so on -- and you must abide by those terms.

Basic Requirements

Before an Alabama court will grant you and your spouse a legal separation, you must demonstrate one of the following to the court: Your marriage is either “irretrievably broken"; you or your spouse desire to live apart from one another; or you and your spouse are too incompatible to cohabit in the same home. You must also meet the state's six-month residency requirement before filing for legal separation.


Alabama's state code notes that you must meet the jurisdictional requirements for a “dissolution of marriage” before a court will grant you and your spouse a legal separation. Jurisdiction may be an issue if you or your spouse move to a different state immediately prior to filing for legal separation.

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

Modification of Terms

When the court grants your legal separation request, it issues a decree of separation. Similar to a divorce decree but without ending your marriage, the separation decree outlines the terms of your separation. This includes, but is not limited to, child custody arrangements, child and spousal support payments, allocation of assets, and debt payment obligations. The terms of a separation decree are legally binding. Should you or your spouse wish to later modify the terms of your separation decree, you can only do so if you both agree to the change in writing or if you prove to the court that a substantial change in your circumstances merits modification of the original decree.


After the court issues you a legal separation, you are free to obtain and convey property without your spouse's consent. If you and your spouse later divorce, the state of Alabama will consider any property you acquire after the legal separation but before the divorce as your own separate property. Your spouse has no claim on these assets during the divorce.


If you and your spouse reconcile after legally separating, the separation decree remains in effect. Dissolving the legal separation is a form of modification and requires that you and your spouse put your request to dissolve the arrangement in writing to the court. The court will then terminate the separation – permitting you and your spouse to return to married life.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Equitable Distribution Without Divorce in North Carolina



Related articles

How to File for Legal Separation in North Carolina

Legal separation is one of those terms that can mean different things, depending on where you live. Some states don't recognize it at all – including North Carolina. The state doesn't recognize a judicial process resulting in a separation decree. Separation is still a pivotal aspect of the state's divorce laws, however. You can't file for it, but you generally cannot get divorced without it.

How to Divorce in PA After Two Years When a Spouse Does Not Agree on Settlement

If you file for a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, you can get a divorce in six months if you and your spouse are in agreement. However, if the two of you disagree, you must wait at least two years from the date you and your spouse separated. After the two-year waiting period, you can ask the court to grant a divorce.

What Is a Final Judgment of Divorce?

The process of dissolving a marriage can involve multiple hearings and court orders. This can make it difficult to know exactly when you and your spouse are officially divorced. In most states, spouses are still considered married until a judge signs a final judgment of divorce and the court clerk enters it into the court record.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How Long Does it Take for a Restraining Order in California?

California is one of a handful of states that provide for automatic temporary restraining orders, or ATROs, during ...

The Retraction of a Divorce Filing

A divorce is not finalized until a judge signs off on the divorce decree and grants a final judgment in the case. Until ...

How to Contest a Divorce Petition in Indiana

In Indiana, couples often disagree on property division, child custody or other terms of the divorce. You have the ...

Oregon Divorce Law Debts & Assets

Oregon courts issue divorce decrees that dissolve the marriage as well as provide for the terms of the divorce. When ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED