ALABAMA FAMILY LAW

It's Not Just Another Legal Case

It's YOUR Family's Future

FAQ

My spouse does not live in Alabama. Can I get a divorce here?

You can file for divorce in Alabama if you have lived here for at least six months before the date that you file, even if your spouse does not live here.

My spouse and I have only been married for a few months. We own no property and we have no children. Can’t we just file for divorce without a divorce attorney?

Anyone can file for divorce without an attorney. However, even in a simple case, there are rules in Alabama about what is filed and the requirements to get divorced. If you do not show the court that you meet the requirements, the court cannot grant your divorce. If you do not file the correct documents or do not provide the Alabama court with required information, it can delay or prevent you from finalizing your divorce. Some courts will notify you that your paperwork is incomplete and give you an opportunity to correct it. However, if you continue to fail to provide needed information in the proper form, the court can dismiss your case. If that happens, your filing fee will not be refunded.

We have only been married a few months. I don’t want to get divorced. Can I get an annulment?

Only if you have valid grounds to request an annulment under Alabama law. The right to an annulment is not based on the length of your marriage. For more information on the requirements for an annulment, refer to our web page called “Types of Alabama Divorces & Other Marital Complaints.” You may also call The Burleson Firm for a free phone consultation.

My partner and I have been living together for a while and sometimes we introduce ourselves as husband and wife. How long do we have to live together to have a common law marriage in Alabama?

Common law marriages are valid in Alabama. However, there is no time requirement for the existence of a common law marriage. Common law marriage is based on such factors as the intent of the parties to be married and the recognition of the marriage by the general public. If you only occasionally represent yourselves as husband and wife, but most people know that you are not married, then no marriage exists. If you regularly act as if you are married and all your neighbors think that you are married, then you probably have a common law marriage.

My spouse just ran off and left me three months ago. I have not heard from my spouse since that time. Can I get a divorce based on abandonment?

No. To get a divorce based on abandonment in Alabama, your spouse must have been gone for at least one year before you file for divorce. The good news is that Alabama is a no fault divorce state. That means that you do not have to wait for a year to file if you request a divorce based upon the ground of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Because of the availability of no fault grounds, divorces are rarely requested in Alabama based upon abandonment anymore.

My spouse controls all the money, and I don’t have any income of my own. My spouse has threatened that if I file for divorce they will not pay for anything anymore. I want a divorce, but I am afraid that I will not be able to support myself. What can I do?

The most important thing to focus on is getting the money to hire an experienced Alabama lawyer and pay the filing fee. Once you file, you can request that the court order your spouse to continue paying the normal bills and providing you with support. That does not mean that you won’t have financial difficulties after you file. Most people going through a divorce must evaluate their lifestyle and budget carefully. You will also have the burden of added temporary expenses like attorney fees and legal expenses. However, you can force your spouse to pay the normal bills that they have been paying until the divorce is final. This will give you an opportunity to plan and decide what you need to do to be able to live on your own.

My spouse is violent. I don’t want to leave my home, but I am afraid to stay. What can I do?

If you are in fear of your safety but do not want to leave your marital residence, you may be able to obtain a Protection from Abuse Order, also known as a PFA order. A Protection from Abuse Order will require your spouse to leave the marital residence and stay away from you even if the home is in your spouse’s name alone. If you have valid grounds to support such an order, you must act quickly after the act or threat of violence occurs. If you wait too long, your request for a PFA order can be denied.

 

I want a divorce and I want my spouse to leave the marital residence. Can I change the locks?

No. Both spouses have an equal right to possession and use of the marital residence. Neither party has a legal right to exclude the other party unless the court awards them exclusive use and possession of the residence. If you want legal possession of the marital residence, you must first file for divorce. Then, you must request that the court grant you temporary possession of the residence until the divorce is final.

My spouse and I have agreed to separate and my spouse wants me to move out. Will it affect the outcome of my divorce if I do?

Yes. If you move out, it can affect the outcome of your divorce. Depending on the facts of your case, the court can decide that you have a lesser need for the marital residence if you can afford to set up a separate residence. The court can also view it as if your spouse has a greater interest in the marital residence since your spouse cared enough to stay. If you have an interest in the residence, then fight for it.

I am a father of minor children and I believe that the children would be better off in my custody after the divorce. I want to fight for custody, but I have heard that father’s never get custody in Alabama. Is that true?

No. The Burleson Firm has successfully fought for and obtained custody for both fathers and mothers in numerous counties in Alabama. Custody is decided based upon the best interests of the children, not the sex of the parents. If you are a fit parent who is actively involved in your children’s lives, you have a chance of receiving custody. Even if you have not been the primary caregiver and have not played an active role in the children’s lives, you may still receive custody under certain circumstances. If the mother is unfit or the children would be better off with you based on the facts of your case, you can still win custody. However, winning may not be easy. The courts can be more difficult to convince and are often slower to respond to the evidence when the father is seeking custody. Because of this challenge, it is critical that the father has the assistance of an experienced Alabama child custody attorney in his divorce or child custody case.

How old does my child have to be to decide where they want to live?

This question is based on a myth about Alabama law. In Alabama, minor children are never legally entitled to decide where they are going to live. The opinion of the minor child is one factor that the court may consider in deciding any child custody issues. An older child’s opinion carries more weight than the opinion of a younger child. However, there are many other factors that the court must also consider in a child custody case so the child’s opinion alone is not enough.

I owned the marital residence before we were married. Can my spouse get it in the divorce?

Possibly. If separate property is used for the benefit of the marriage, it can become marital property. The court will look at several factors when determining whether to award an interest to your spouse. One of these factors is the length of the marriage.

 

My spouse has retirement assets. Am I entitled to any of them?

In Alabama you can receive up to fifty percent of your spouse’s retirement benefits under certain circumstances. To be entitled to any of your spouse’s retirement assets, you must have been married for at least ten years before the date that the divorce complaint was filed. The retirement must also have been earned during the marriage and the assets must be vested.

I lost my job and I cannot afford to pay as much child support. What can I do?

To get a child support reduction, you must file a request with the Alabama divorce court. It is important to file as soon as possible. The court cannot go back earlier than the date of filing to reduce your child support obligation on these grounds. Therefore, each month that passes means additional money that you owe.

My girlfriend took me to court for paternity. The judge ordered me to pay child support but the mother won’t let me see my child. Shouldn’t I have visitation rights?

Yes. Unless visitation would be harmful to the minor child, you are entitled to visitation rights under Alabama law. However, in a paternity and child support case, most judges do not automatically order visitation. To get legally enforceable visitation rights, you must request them from the Alabama court.

 

I am paying child support for two children. The oldest one just turned nineteen. Do I have to go back to court or can I just divide the child support amount in half?

You must go back to court as long as there is at least one minor child left. You cannot divide the child support obligation in half. Each child is not awarded the same amount of support under Alabama law. The first child receives a higher award than each subsequent child. When the children become adults, it works in reverse. The smallest increments of support come off first and the largest portion is allotted to the last remaining child. You must go back to court to have your new child support obligation calculated correctly and to make the new amount part of the order in your case.

Contact The Burleson Firm

The Burleson Firm has helped clients in Alabama with family law issues for over 20 years. If you have family law questions, we can help you determine the best course of action. Let The Burleson Firm schedule a no-obligation conference with a serious Alabama family law attorney to answer your family law questions.

For a free phone consultation, call us at 1 (205) 795-2033.

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