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Alabama Divorce Laws


Each state has its own set of laws covering divorce, alimony, property distribution, child support, and custody. Many state divorce laws are complex and detailed; if you have any questions about them, speak to a local divorce lawyer today.

For your convenience, the chart below summarizes a few of the key concepts of Alabama's divorce laws:

Alabama State Laws

  • Fault/No Fault: Both
  • Property Distribution: Equitable
  • ADR Available: Yes
  • No Parenting Plan Required: No

Alabama Grounds for Divorce

Alabama divorce courts allows couples to file for divorce under no fault and fault grounds. A no fault divorce will be granted under divorce laws if it's proven the spouses cannot live together because of incompatibility of temperament or there's been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage.

During the no fault divorce process, the couple will need to recognize the set Alabama divorce waiting periods to make sure reconciliation isn't possible.

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Fault divorce will be granted on the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Imprisonment
  • Crimes against nature
  • Physically and incurably unable to enter into the marriage
  • Habitual drug or alcohol use
  • Violence
  • Insanity
  • Voluntary Abandonment

Before filing for no fault or fault divorce, the couple needs to meet the Alabama residency requirement.

In both no fault and fault divorce, the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage need to be shown in the divorce petition, while meeting the requirements of Alabama divorce law.

Alabama Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce, either the petitioner or respondent must meet the residency requirements specified by state divorce laws.

The divorce petition may be filed in the county's circuit court where the respondent lives or in the county where the couple lived when the separation happened.

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If the respondent doesn't live in Alabama, the petitioner must have been a resident of the state six months before filing the divorce petition.

Upon filing for divorce, the couple will need to follow Alabama divorce waiting periods and other state requirements to get through the divorce process as smoothly as possible.

Alabama Divorce Waiting Periods

Under Alabama divorce laws there isn't a divorce waiting period before filing for divorce. As long as the couple meets the Alabama residency requirement, then filing for divorce can happen at any time.

The parties must wait 30 days after filing the divorce petition before the Alabama divorce court will issue a final order of divorce.

Once a judgment for divorce has been entered, the divorce court has the option of entering an order for each spouse to wait 60 days before remarrying.

If an appeal is made withing the 60 days, the parties are only allowed to remarry each other during the pending appeal.

Alabama Legal Separation

Legal separation is a divorce alternative that doesn't legally terminate the couple's marital status. Before filing for divorce, a couple may choose to try legal separation as a way for the couple to experience how divorce would feel.

During legal separation, the couple can negotiate workable terms that may be used in the divorce process later on. If the couple decides to reconcile, the terms can be dissolved and the couple will not need to deal with the rest of the Alabama divorce process.

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The Alabama divorce court can grant legal separation if it has jurisdiction and finds the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning there is complete incompatibility between the spouses or one of the spouses wants to live separately. In legal separation, the divorce court will determine Alabama child custody.

The terms of legal separation can only be modified or dissolved if the divorce court approves a written agreement between the couple.

Alabama Property Division

Alabama is an equitable distribution state, meaning the Alabama divorce court makes property distribution decisions by what the court considers as fair, not necessarily equal.

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Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, some benefits and property may not be included in Alabama property. When the Alabama divorce court makes property distributions it considers key factors, such as the type of property and length of the marriage.

Alabama Alimony

Under state divorce laws the Alabama divorce court can order an alimony award while the divorce is pending until the final divorce decree, know as temporary alimony.

Alimony, which may be referred to as spousal support or maintenance, will be based on the size of the supporting spouse's estate and the standard of living established during the marriage.

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When the divorce is final, the Alabama divorce court will decide whether or not to award an "allowance" from the other spouse's estate. Nonmarital property can not be counted as part of the supporting spouse's estate.

However, the divorce court can include retirement benefits if the couple has been married for at least 10 years while earning the retirement benefits. Any retirement benefits earned before the marriage aren't counted.

The spouse being supported doesn't receive retirement benefits from the supporting spouse until he or she receives them or the couples agrees on lump-sum alimony.

If the Alabama grounds for divorce were based on one spouse's misconduct, the Alabama divorce court may take the misconduct into consideration when awarding alimony.

The divorce court can modify alimony awards when one of the spouses petitions the court with proof that the spouse being supported has remarried or is openly co-habitating with a member of the opposite sex.

Alabama Child Custody

The Alabama divorce courts will determine child custody by what's in the best interest of the child. This is a key legal standard most states use when setting child custody but the divorce court's interpretation of the best interest of the child varies from state to state.

According to state divorce laws, the Alabama divorce court considers:

  • Moral character of the parent
  • Age and sex of the child
  • Child's wishes
  • Safety and well-being of the child

Typically, divorce courts like to assign joint child custody so the child can continue to have frequent contact and a lasting relationship with both parents.

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Joint child custody also encourages the parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of raising a child after filing for divorce. If the Alabama divorce court assigns joint custody, that doesn't necessarily mean equal physical child custody.

In Alabama, if the parents agree to joint child custody, the divorce court will presume that it's in the best interest of the child. The Alabama divorce court can order joint child custody, even if both parents don't consent.

Parents must also submit a parenting plan that details considerations of care and custody, such as:

  • Care and education of the child
  • The child's medical and dental care
  • Holiday and vacation custody
  • Child support
  • Other factors that affect the physical and emotional health and well-being of the child
  • Designating a parent with authority to make decisions about the child's involvement in activities and medical care

Working out a parenting plan with your spouse can add stress to the divorce process because it will require the two of you working together. With help from a local Alabama divorce lawyer, you can work through negotiating a parenting plan with your spouse.

Learn what's important to include in your parenting plan so you can protect your relationship with your child.

Alabama Grandparent Visitation

During divorce, state divorce laws don't automatically grant visitation rights for grandparents, but most states allow grandparents to petition for child visitation. Under Alabama divorce law, any grandparent may file an action for visitation rights if it's in the best interest of the child and one of the following conditions exists:

  • One or both of the child's parents are dead
  • The parents have divorced
  • A parent has abandoned the child
  • The child was born out of wedlock
  • The child is living with both biological parents, who have prohibited a relationship between the child and grandparent

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Any grandparent can seek child visitation rights in a divorce proceeding, an Alabama child custody proceeding, or in an adoption proceeding where a relative or stepparent is looking to adopt the child. The Alabama divorce court will make a determination considering the following factors:

  • Willingness of the grandparent to encourage a relationship between the child and parents
  • Child's preference, if he or she is mature enough to express a preference
  • Mental and physical health of the child
  • Grandparent's mental and physical health
  • Evidence of domestic violence
  • Other relevant factors in the situation, including parents' wishes

If visitation rights for grandparents are granted by the Alabama divorce court, the legal guardian or parent of the child may petition the Alabama divorce court for revocation or amendment of the visitation rights by showing a good reason. A child visitation amendment petition can't be filed more than once in a two year period, unless there is evidence of alleged abuse or other exceptional circumstances.

Alabama Child Support

When determining child support in divorce, the Alabama divorce court first determines a basic child support obligation that's based on the adjusted gross income of both parents and what would have been available to the child if the family has stayed together.

Work related childcare expenses and health care costs are added in to calculate a total child support obligation that is divided between the parents in proportion to each one's adjusted gross income.

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The Alabama divorce law on child support obligation also considers the number of children being supported and other circumstances, such as existing child support obligations.

Divorce laws in Alabama provide a child support worksheet that can be used to calculate child support and estimated incomes used in calculating child support are usually based on past pay stubs or W-2s.

The parent with Alabama child custody is presumed to spend his or her share directly on the child. It's possible to modify child support if there's a significant change in circumstances after the original child support order.

Alabama Child Support Enforcement

If parents default on Alabama child support, the state has penalties to help collect unpaid child support. The Alabama child support enforcement tactics include:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Documentation on credit reports
  • Deductions taken from federal or state tax refunds
  • Liens placed on property
  • Driver's license suspended or revoked

Fight for your child's financial future by making sure you collect unpaid child support.

Please understand that this information is provided for illustration purposes only and is not legal advice. If you would like more information about Alabama divorce law or filing for divorce, connect today be calling 877-349-1310 or filling out an Alabama divorce case review form.

Case Evaluation

The above synopsis of Alabama divorce laws is by no means all-inclusive and has been adapted from applicable state laws. These laws may have changed since our last update and there may be additional laws that apply in your situation. For the latest information on these divorce laws, please contact a local Alabama divorce lawyer in your area.

This "Alabama Divorce Laws" page was last updated May 2009.

Note: Keep in mind that all divorce laws are complex. If you need legal divorce advice or want to fully understand how these laws affect you, please speak with a local divorce attorney.