A divorce is the ending of a marriage with the parties, which may be achieved expeditiously if the parties are in fundamental agreement on all material terms, or by litigation in which attorneys represent their clients' best interests. Issues concerning child custody and support, spousal maintenance, and the distribution of assets and debts are the major concerns in most divorce matters.

Do You Need an Attorney?

Couples who have been married a short time with few assets and no children may obtain a divorce without an attorney, but they still must secure and complete a number of forms that, if not filled out correctly, could delay their divorce.

If children are involved and there are disagreements over child custody, visitation, support and the division of marital property, or where the parties are disputing the existence of other property or income sources, an attorney can be invaluable in uncovering hidden assets and in helping you and your estranged partner in reaching a satisfactory resolution.

Getting a Divorce

Some couples choose a legal separation as a cooling-off period instead of dissolving their marriage. A separation concerns the same issues regarding child custody, support, spousal maintenance and the division of your assets and debts, similar to that found in a divorce settlement agreement. By remaining married, however, you can retain medical and other benefits that might be lost if you do divorce. Should you later decide to legally end the marriage, the separation agreement can be easily converted to a divorce settlement agreement with a minimum of costs.

Alabama requires you to establish a bona fide residence in the state for six months before you can file for divorce. Once that condition is satisfied, you can file in the county where your spouse lives or, if you are filing and your spouse is not an Alabama resident, in the county where you reside.

You must wait a minimum of 30 days after filing the divorce complaint before a judge can issue a final decree, but this may have little effect if your divorce is contested.

An Alabama petitioner may choose to allege no-fault and grounds for a divorce or state particular grounds, which you are obligated to prove, such as adultery, drug abuse, alcoholism or physical abuse, among others, but most petitioners choose to file under Alabama’s no-fault laws. No-fault only requires that you allege an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or voluntary separation for over one year.

Property and Debt Distribution

Alabama is an equitable distribution state. If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your property, the court will distribute it, but not necessarily on an equal basis. Essentially, the court looks to who contributed what property to the marriage or incurred certain debt, which property is separate, if one party needs financial support, whether you or your spouse are abusive or deceitful, the tax consequences and sources of individual income, among other factors.

In most cases, it is to the parties’ benefit to reach an accord on distribution of the property without the involvement of the court.

Late in Life Divorce

Ending a marriage late in life can be a shock, especially if one spouse has contributed more income and has provided medical insurance and other benefits. For one spouse who may be left with no medical coverage and who is too young for Medicare, he or she faces a gap in coverage that can have catastrophic consequences. Many women find their situations more desperate as they may find it difficult to enter the work force, find suitable employment, remarry and often suffer more demonstrably than men.

Why Contact an Attorney

Alabama divorce laws are always evolving. Getting sound advice from a divorce lawyer can save you considerable time, expense and anguish. Speak with an Alabama divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights and interests are adequately represented.

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