Alabama Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement and Legal Separation

Fortunately or not, people get divorced all over the US, and each state has its legal peculiarities regarding the divorce and separation process. But one thing is for sure: you will need to compile and complete the Alabama Marital Settlement Agreement Form if you plan to divorce in the state. This review will tell you everything you need to know about filing for a divorce (or legal separation) in the state.

People tend to seek professional consultation before proceeding to something as serious and significant as a legal divorce, which is absolutely right and logical. Dissolution of marriage involves serious changes in an entire household’s life; there are just so many things to take care of. The couple terminating their relationship and formalizing their decision must comply with the local law, but they first need to get acquainted with it.

The paperwork required to complete the process is significant and time-consuming. So, you and your former-to-be life partner must understand and get each other’s desires, needs, expectations, and objectives to reach an agreement fast. A post-marital settlement agreement is not a divorce declaration but the legitimate and formalized decision of the subject couple to terminate their marriage. This document is drawn up jointly at mutual will. It is not mandatory by law, but it legitimizes your post-marital decisions. Otherwise, the couple’s respective choices are decided by the courts per the local law. The contract should contain the following sections:

  • Basic information
  • Spousal support
  • Properties, liabilities, and remedies
  • Effective dates and signatures

The first section usually includes both signatories’ names, the place and date of the marriage commencement, and the particular date when the spouses started to live separately. Also, please indicate whether any of you is currently a service member.

The second section is about monetary and financial support matters. Parties can agree, either themselves or following a court decision, to set forth the amount of financial aid and its effective date. This section also defines when the maintenance can be canceled. One partner can also choose to cover the other’s health insurance expenses.

The third section contains regulations regarding the dwelling unit(s) owned jointly. Here, you can indicate any agreements regarding the division of property or responsibilities.

Last but not least, the parties must sign the agreement. However, we advise you not to sign any papers until you have carefully and thoroughly studied the content. We also strongly recommend that each of the parties hires a specialist and, upon the agreement acceptance, show it to an independent expert.

The compulsion to sign is prohibited; all decisions must be voluntary. If you have any doubts, it is better not to sign the agreement but resolve the issue through attorneys. Even if both the signatories agree to sign and adhere to every related matter now, they can change their minds later. In this case, you can amend the contract and its terms in the future by concluding a new one.

Alabama Divorce and Separation Laws

All divorce-related matters and issues in Alabama are regulated by Title 30, Chapter 2 of State Law. We suggest reading all the local requirements to understand the separation processes better. However, below are the primary definitions and critical points on the matter. We encourage you to use these recommendations to guide you through this process.

Grounds for Divorce

Only no-fault grounds are accepted as valid in the state. Amongst them are personal incompatibility due to temper or living separately. The no-fault reasons include personal incompatibility of two people, inability to reconcile, and voluntary refusal from bed and board (at least one year).

The second type includes reasons with fault:

  • Substance abuse
  • Drug addiction
  • Adultery (alleged or proven)
  • Mental illness requiring psychiatric hospital treatment
  • Domestic violence
  • A pregnancy that the husband did not know about
  • Husband leaving his spouse without living allowance

Property Division

If you have independently agreed on property division, the respective actions will be taken based on the principle of fairness and the rules concluded in Section 30-2-51 of Alabama Law.

Before making a decision, the court considers which property is joint and which is separate. Then the monetary equivalent of each property is calculated so that the court can fairly divide it between the spouses. The property will not always be equally divided. The court considers many factors and approaches each case separately.

Child Custody and Visitation

The court always takes the minor’s side and chooses what is best for them. Alabama courts believe that communication with both parents is necessary for the minor if it does not threaten their safety and health. Therefore, they make decisions on joint custody.

However, joint custody can be different; two primary options are applicable in the state:

  • Legal. This custody concerns legal decisions about the child’s life, including decisions about place of residence, health and treatment, education, and so on. But the court can appoint one parent responsible for these provisions if the two parents cannot come to an agreement.
  • Physical. Physical custody concerns the time each parent spends with the child. Shared physical custody does not necessarily mean that parental time is divided equally. The court investigates the entire situation before making this difficult decision.

There are cases of sole legal or physical custody and a parent’s visit schedule. This matter is decided by the court when one of the parents is denied custody.

Child Support and Alimony

The principle guidelines on this matter are set out in the Alabama Rule 32 of Judicial Administration. If the court’s alimony is not paid for, the offender may have their driver’s license suspended.

Only the court has a legal right to assign alimony or spousal support. The judge acts in the minor’s best interests when assigning any financial support based on the “income share” principle.

In Alabama, you can request legal separation. Regarding the law, you will still be married to each other, but most of your marital ties will be dissolved, and you will be able to share custody over children or make other arrangements.

After a legal separation procedure, the former spouses can go their separate ways or change their minds and get back together again. At this point, it is entirely up to them how they use their mediation period: for a slow and painless final separation or family counseling and using this opportunity to give each other a second chance. Either way, they have to establish personal boundaries and distance from each other for a certain period to understand how they can function better. They also need to consider the minors’ interests if there are underage children involved in the process.

If you would like to file a legal separation, you should carefully study Section 30-2-40 of the Alabama Code. All the necessary information on the procedure is contained there.

Filing for Divorce in Alabama

Divorce is a time-consuming and sometimes costly process. However, you will have to take specific steps and accept the costs to obtain a divorce if you decide so.

1. Prepare the Divorce Papers

First, the Divorce Complaint should be completed by the plaintiff. Then, the signatories agree to the settlement agreement terms and conditions and sign the covenant. If a couple has shared custody over minor children or any other additional responsibilities and duties towards each other, they must present supporting documents to the judges. Check out the complete list on your county’s official website.

2. Submit Documents to Court

Several more documents will have to be attached to the already voiced documents:

  • Summons
  • Plaintiff’s Testimony
  • Marital Separation Agreement
  • Certificate of divorce
  • Payment confirmation

Mind that you will have to pay the filing fee of $200 to $300 depending on the form and the locality. Check the current amount in your county. Please note that all documents and their copies must be submitted to the responsible clerk of the state Circuit Court.

3. Get a Defendant’s Answer

Copies of the documents must be provided to the defendant, who will have to respond to the divorce complaint. The defendant has 30 days to file the original response with the court.

4. Negotiate the Terms

The court gives the spouses some time to resolve their issues independently. It is yet another chance to conclude an Alabama Marital Settlement Agreement by all the local norms and regulations. If the couple, together with the mediators, make a joint decision, they draw up an agreement and sign it.

5. Execute the Divorce (or Separation)

Once the couple has succeeded in reaching an agreement and completing the settlement agreement and other required legal forms, including supporting documents, the paperwork is served to the court and the responsible clerk. Once the court rules in favor, the couple receives the Final Judgment of Divorce, which they must then provide to the clerk for registration.

Published: Apr 6, 2021