The state of Alabama recognizes the right of married citizens to get a divorce. When the married couple cannot agree to terms of the divorce between themselves, this is generally referred to as a contested divorce. When this happens, the law requires that a specific process be followed before a divorce can be finalized.
All divorces in Alabama, whether contested or not, must meet state requirements before a court can hear them. At least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least 6 months before the divorce petition is filed. The petition must be filed either in the county in which the defendant resides, or where the couple resided when the separation occurred. If the defendant is a nonresident, the petition must be filed in the county in which the petitioner resides.
When one party decides to file a divorce petition, he or she must not only meet the general residency and jurisdictional requirements, but must include specific information in the document. The divorce petition can include a number of grounds as the basis for the divorce, but Alabama allows for a "no-fault" divorce petition. In such cases, the petitioner must state that there has been "such a complete incompatibility of temperament that the parties can no longer live together." A divorce petition may also include fault grounds, which include: adultery, imprisonment, addiction, mental incapacity, or a crime against nature. (Code of Alabama: Title 30, Chapter 2: § 30-2-1)
Once a divorce petition is filed, a copy of the petition must be delivered to the defendant. This is generally referred to as service of process. Alabama law allows several methods to effect service, including: personal service by a process server leaving a copy of the complaint at the person's dwelling or with the person; through certified mail sent by the court clerk; by the county sheriff; or through publication in a county newspaper.
Once a petition has been filed, the state of Alabama requires that courts wait at least 30 days before entering a divorce decree. During this time, the court is allowed to issue temporary orders in areas such as custody, spousal or child support, visitation and use of the marital residence. (Code of Alabama: Title 30, Chapter 2: § 30-2-8.1)
Discovery, Negotiations, and Hearings
After a divorce petition is filed, a contested divorce can be resolved in several ways. The parties can at any time come to a negotiated settlement between themselves. They can also go through the trial process. This can involve sending written questionnaires (called interrogatories) to any party or witness involved, and asking for each side to produce evidence or witnesses (generally called discovery). If the parties are unable to come to a negotiated settlement, they can proceed to a trial before the judge (called a bench trial) or a jury trial.