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How to File for Divorce in Alabama

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Filing for divorce is likely to be one of the more difficult things you will do during your lifetime. Breaking up a marriage—particularly when there are children involved—can turn contentious, even when both parties want the divorce. There are so many decisions that must be made when filing for divorce in Alabama. These decisions will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding your marriage, along with many other factors. If you and your spouse are unable to make these decisions on your own, a judge may end up making them for you.

Since neither of you may be happy with the decisions made by a judge, it is certainly in your best interests to try and make these decisions with your spouse. Not that this is nearly as easy as it sounds. Even the friendliest divorces can quickly turn unfriendly once child custody and asset division are introduced into the mix.

If you wonder what the top cause of divorce is in the United States, you might be surprised to know that financial difficulties are the number one reason for divorce, followed by infidelity, alcohol and drug abuse, and daily arguments. Regardless of your own reasons for divorce, it can be extremely beneficial for you to have a strong legal advocate by your side when filing for divorce in Alabama. Attorney Shelbie Hankey of Hankey Law Firm can be that advocate, guiding you through the process in the best way possible.

What Should You Do Before Filing for Divorce in Alabama? 

If you are planning to file for divorce, there are things you should do prior to filing. Getting organized can save you a lot of grief down the line, so make sure you have done the following:

  • Make sure you have copies of all important documents before the divorce is announced. Often, a spouse may decide to “hide” important documents, making it much more difficult for the other spouse to know about all the marital assets, or how much marital debt is owed. Ensure you have access to or copies of bank statements for all accounts, credit card statements, mortgage information, vehicle information, and a rough inventory of all assets.  
  • Decide where you will live following the divorce, and make sure you will have the financial means to rent or buy a home.  
  • If you have children with your spouse, consider their needs, apart from how you feel about your spouse. Determine what would be the best living situation for them and consider this when making plans for your own future.  
  • Practice digital hygiene—this means you should not post anything about your spouse or your divorce on social media. In fact, it’s probably best if you stay away from social media entirely during your divorce.    
  • Prioritize your own well-being during this difficult time. Talk to a professional about your divorce to help you move forward in the right direction. You have many decisions that must be made—decisions that can potentially affect the rest of your life. It is essential that you are at the top of your game while making these decisions.

Does Filing for Divorce First Make a Difference?

It can actually make a difference which spouse files for divorce first. While you gain no particular rights when you file first, you do have a bit more control over the divorce. If you and your spouse are living in separate counties, you can choose to file in your own county so you are not required to travel every time there is a hearing. The spouse who files first is usually better prepared in that he or she has organized all paperwork and perhaps made a plan for where they will live and work after the divorce. By filing first, you also have first choice between local divorce lawyers. Since your divorce lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your divorce, this can be a definite plus. 

Filing first also allows you the time you need to secure additional support you may need during and after the divorce like forensic accountants or therapists. Perhaps most importantly, when you file first, it means you have had the time to come to terms with your impending divorce. If you were not able to be the spouse who filed for divorce, you shouldn’t stress over it. Just try to get your affairs in order as quickly as possible and do your best to avoid making emotional decisions.

What Are the Steps and the Process for Filing for Divorce in Alabama? 

If both spouses reside in Alabama, you can file for divorce at any time. If you are filing for divorce and your spouse is currently living in another state, you must have lived in Alabama for a minimum of six months prior to filing for divorce.  If you qualify under the residence requirements of Alabama, then your next step will be to hire a divorce attorney. It is never a good idea to DIY your divorce. There are risks that you simply will not see coming. Even the smallest misstep can have major consequences for you and your future.

Next, decide whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested. If you and your spouse have truly agreed on every single decision, then your divorce is uncontested. If there are any disagreements, your divorce will be considered contested. You will then decide whether you will file a no-fault divorce by claiming irreconcilable differences, or a fault divorce, which means you are alleging your spouse had a drug addiction, committed adultery, abandoned you, was habitually drunk, emotionally abused you, physically abused you, was imprisoned, was unable to maintain employment, or that your marriage lacked physical intimacy.

If you file your divorce alleging a “fault,” then you must be prepared to prove those allegations. Discovery will ensue, then your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will engage in negotiations. If there are aspects of your divorce that cannot be agreed upon, a court hearing will be set. At this hearing, both attorneys will argue each spouse’s case, and the judge will make the final decisions. A Final Decree will be issued which clearly lays out all the decisions in your divorce.  

How Can an Experienced Attorney Make a Difference When Filing for Divorce? 

Filing for divorce in Alabama can be a stressful, even traumatic experience—and one you may not be fully prepared for. The process can be made significantly easier by having a trusted divorce attorney on your side. Your attorney will do the following—and so much more.

1. Your divorce attorney can explain “grounds” for divorce, helping you choose whether a no-fault divorce or a fault-based divorce is best under the circumstances.  

2. When you are in the middle of a divorce, it can be difficult to see things clearly because of the emotions involved. Your divorce attorney can provide objective advice, discussing the factors that will have an impact on your future.  

3. Property division can be explained by your divorce attorney who will also ensure that your spouse properly discloses all assets.  

4. While both partners may be legally responsible for joint debt, there are instances where one spouse will be held financially responsible.  

5. Spousal support and other benefits can be determined by your divorce attorney, and if your spouse has a business, your attorney can help determine what portion of the business interests you are entitled to.  

6. Custody plans are notoriously contentious; your divorce attorney can help you put together a parenting plan that works for you while addressing the needs of your children.  

7. Your attorney will prepare and file all necessary paperwork, help negotiate settlements, and represent you in court when necessary.

Hiring an Experienced Divorce Attorney from Hankey Law Firm

If you are considering filing for divorce in Alabama, Hankey Law Firm offers professionalism, compassion, and experience. We take the time to get to know you and your situation, allowing us to help you obtain a favorable outcome. When you choose Hankey Law Firm, we will create a highly individualized solution for you. We are proud to serve our clients, bringing passion and diligence to each case. Contact Hankey Law Firm today.