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Divorce and Alabama Law: The Basics

Divorce in Alabama is a statutory remedy, that is, the Alabama legislature has enacted law permitting divorce as a remedy to either spouse for both fault-based and no-fault-based reasons. (Section 30-2-1 of Alabama Code). The fault-based grounds, to wit, adultery, abandonment, insanity, drug or alcohol addiction, and so on, are widely known and common-sensical. The addition of “incompatibility” and “irretrievable breakdown” have allowed spouses to divorce without alleging the fault of the other. (Sec. 30-2-1(7) & (9)). This addition made divorce, in many cases, a more viable option for spouses who simply did not wish to remain married.

Divorce actions are the jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts of the various counties of Alabama (Sec. 30-2-1). While a divorce action may be filed in any county in Alabama, venue is proper in either of two places: in the county where the defendant resides or in the county where the parties lived at the time of separation (Sec. 30-2-4). If the defendant is not a resident of Alabama, then venue is proper in the county where the plaintiff resides. However, in this latter scenario, the Court’s jurisdiction may be limited to the “res” of the marriage; that is, the Court may only be empowered to terminate the marriage and not divide property. The extent of the Court’s power will depend on numerous factors including, but not limited to, the location of the property of the parties and where the parties were married. Venue may be waived.

Divorces often involve questions of property division, child custody, alimony, and child support. While these subjects are due their own articles, it is worth noting that, in regards to property division, Alabama courts apply the doctrine of “equitable distribution,” to wit, the Court possesses the authority and power to divide the property of the parties equitably and fairly. Thus, the Court is empowered with great discretion and will often consider the financial status of the parties, the length of the marriage, the reasons giving rise to the divorce, and so on in making its determination.

A divorce is, often times, an agreed-upon choice. And, in such instances, both parties agree that the marriage should end and divide the property amicably. If there are children, then the parties will also decide issues of custody and support. There is no requirement that a Court make these decisions; but, the Court must approve them. This type of divorce–where all issues are agreed upon–is often referred to as an “Uncontested Divorce.” They are significantly quicker and oftentimes much less expensive than the alternative.

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