A Summary of Alabama Divorce Laws

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Divorce Laws Specifically for the State of Alabama

Grounds for Divorce Under Alabama Divorce Laws

Alabama divorce laws permit a judgment of divorce to be granted on any of the following grounds:

  1. The marriage cannot be consummated at the time of the contract due to a physical condition of either party that deems them incurably incapable of consummating the marriage
  2. Adultery
  3. Voluntary abandonment by either spouse for a period of one year prior to the filing of the complaint
  4. Either spouse being imprisoned for a felony conviction for a period of two years and the actual sentence is seven years or more
  5. The commission of crimes against nature, before or after the marriage
  6. Drug or alcohol addiction
  7. Complete incompatibility of temperament of the parties such that the parties can no longer live together
  8. Insanity, when the insane spouse has been committed to a mental institution for a period of five successive years and that spouse is hopelessly and incurably insane
  9. When there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and any further attempts at reconciliation are impractical or futile and not in the best interests of those involved
  10. In favor of the husband, when the wife was pregnant at the time of marriage without the husband’s knowledge
  11. Violence committed against one spouse by the other and/or one spouse placing the other in reasonable apprehension of such violence
  12. In favor of the wife when she has lived separate and apart from the husband without his support for two years prior to the filing of divorce, and she is a bona fide resident of Alabama
  13. Residency Requirements

Did you know that Alabama exhibits Adolf Hitler’s typewriter (for interested parties, you can bear witness to this great artifact in the Hall of History in Bessemer)?

Though you don’t have to reside there as long as Hitler’s typewriter has, Alabama divorce laws require that one of you be a bona fide resident of the state for six months prior to the filing of the divorce. This must be noted in the complaint for divorce and later proven.

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

You must file complaints for divorce in the Circuit Court of the county in which the defendant resides.

Alternatively, you may file in the Circuit Court of the county in which you both resided when the separation occurred. Finally, if the defendant is not a resident of the state, the action must be filed in the circuit court in which the other spouse resides.

Other important names to remember include:

  • The title of the action initiating the action for divorce is the Complaint for Divorce.
  • The title of the action granting the divorce (i.e. the action setting you free) is the Judgment of Divorce.
  • The spouse who files the action is the Plaintiff (this is either you or the evil witch who dumped you), and the other person is the Defendant.

Waiting Period

Alabama divorce laws require that you wait 30 days from the day you file until a final judgment of divorce is made. You must also wait an additional 60 days after the judgment of divorce is entered before you can marry anyone else.

Of course, if all this waiting is too much for you, Alabama does allow you to remarry your current spouse at anytime after the divorce is filed.

Legal Separation

If you’re not quite ready to go through with the daunting task of a divorce, Alabama provides you with an equally unnerving alternative. You may file for legal separation from your spouse. While a legal separation does not terminate the marriage, you must still meet all of the same requirements of a divorce. These requirements include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • The bonds of matrimony must be irretrievably broken (which seems like a good reason to get divorced…)
  • There must exist an incompatibility of temperament between the parties, or one or both of the parties desire to live separate and apart from the other spouse (why not divorce?).

If there are children born of the marriage, the court must have considered, approved, or provided for child custody and entered an order for child support.

Alimony/Spousal Support

In Alabama, the court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendency of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final.

Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.

Several factors go into making the decision of how much alimony will be owed and to whom. For starters, if neither party has a separate estate, or that separate estate is insufficient for the maintenance of a spouse, the judge may award spousal support out of the other spouse’s portion of the marital estate, taking into consideration the value of that portion and the condition of the spouse’s family (in simple terms, whoever has the money will support the one who has none).

If you both have separate estates, the court may not consider the separate property of the parties, unless the court determines that the property in question or income derived from that property was regularly used for the common benefit of the parties during the marriage.

If the divorce is awarded based upon the misconduct of the other spouse, the court may consider that misconduct in making an award of support, but may not consider the separate property of the spouse in determining the amount.

Upon petition to the court, an award of alimony shall terminate upon the submission of proof to the court that the party receiving alimony has remarried or is openly living/cohabitating with a member of the opposite sex.

Child Custody

The Alabama divorce court shall consider joint custody in every case, but will make its final decision as to the type of custody to be awarded based upon what they determine to be in the best interest of the child. The court will consider the following factors when making child custody decisions:

  1. The agreement or lack of agreement between the parents on joint custody (if you can come to an agreement out of court, you will save yourself a lot of suffering, so this is always the best option).
  2. The past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly.
  3. The ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other parent (kids can be sneaky little devils so be careful what you say about their mother lest it end up being read back to you in court).
  4. Any history of or potential for child abuse, spouse abuse or kidnapping.
  5. The geographic proximity of the parents to each other.
  6. Because joint custody is presumed to be in the best interests of the child, if both parents request joint custody, joint custody shall be ordered unless the court makes a specific finding as to why it should not be.

In order to implement joint custody, the court requires that the parents submit as part of their agreement provisions covering such things as the care and education of the child, the medical and dental care of the child, holiday and vacation visitation schedules, and child support. Unless otherwise prohibited by the court, all records and information pertaining to the child, including but not limited to, medical, physiological, dental, scholastic, etc., shall be available equally to both parents.

Child Support

A parent who seeks to establish or modify an order of child support must submit a petition to the courts, which includes the name, residential address, and social security numbers of both parents as well as the name, sex, residential address, social security number and date of birth for each child for whom support is sought. The petition must also specify the relief sought and be accompanied by a certified copy of any existing support order in effect in accordance with Alabama divorce laws.

Name Change

In Alabama, the departing wife may be prohibited from using the last name or initials of her former husband.

Grandparent Visitation

At the discretion of the court, grandparents may be awarded visitation privileges of minor grandchildren.


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