There are generally two types of divorce available in most states: contested and uncontested. A divorce is "contested" when you and your spouse can't agree on some or all of the issues involved in ending your marriage. Unless you manage to work out your disagreements along the way, you'll have to go to court to have a judge hold a trial, examine the evidence, call witnesses, and resolve the issues for you.
In contrast, there's no need for a trial when you have an uncontested divorce, because you and your spouse have worked out the issues between yourselves. And if you can reach that agreement before you file your divorce papers, an uncontested divorce will be much cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because you can avoid lengthy and expensive legal battles over every disagreement.
Many couples find that they can navigate the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers. Also, with an uncontested divorce, you may be able to use a service to file for divorce online.
In addition to lowering the cost of divorce, starting out with an agreement means that you can get your final divorce more quickly.
You must meet a few basic requirements to get an uncontested divorce (or "simple divorce") in Alabama.
You may file for divorce in Alabama as long as both you and your spouse (the "defendant") live in the state. If your spouse lives out of state, the law in Alabama says that you (the "petitioner") must have lived in the state for at least six months just before you file the divorce papers. (Ala. Code § 30-2-5 (2022).)
When you file for divorce, you need to state the legal reason (or "ground) that your marriage is ending. Alabama's grounds for divorce includes several fault-based reasons (claims that your spouse committed certain kinds of misconduct), as well as two no-fault grounds:
With an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse need to agree on these no-fault reasons. Although the law lists them as separate grounds, they're essentially the same thing—which is why some of the state's standard divorce forms require you to declare both incompatibility and an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. (Ala. Code § 30-2-1 (2022).)
To get an uncontested divorce in Alabama, you and your spouse must agree on all the issues involved in ending your marriage, including:
Usually, you'll simply calculate the amount of child support under Alabama's child support guidelines, based largely on your incomes and custody arrangements. If you or your spouse decide on a child support amount that differs from the guidelines, the judge will approve your agreement only if you've explained the reasons for the difference, and if the judge finds that the amount is fair. (Ala. Rules Jud. Admin., rule 32 (2022).)
If you're having trouble working out disagreements on any issues, divorce mediation could help. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can then use this document as the basis for your written marital settlement agreement.
When you're filing for divorce in Alabama without a lawyer's help, it's your responsibility to make sure you've taken all the necessary steps and followed Alabama's legal requirements. But here's an overview of the process.
You can find some of the basic forms at AlabamaLegalHelp.org and the Alabama Courts E-Forms site, but those forms may not apply in all situations (such as when you have minor children, assets, or debts). You can check with the circuit court clerk in the Alabama county where you'll be filing (more on that below) to find out about other forms you may need.
Online divorce services typically provide you with all the necessary forms, which will be completed based on your answers to a questionnaire.
The main Alabama forms for an uncontested divorce include:
You'll need other forms when you have minor children with your spouse.
Once you've filled out and signed the forms (and had your signatures notarized, when the forms require it), you'll take them to the circuit court clerk's office. Usually, you'll file the papers in the Alabama county where your spouse lives or where the two of you were living when you separated. However, you should file in the county where you live if your spouse now lives out of state.
You'll generally have to pay a court fee to file your divorce papers. The fees vary by county. For example, the filing fee for divorce is $324 in Madison County but $227 in Baldwin County (as of 2022). Check with the clerk's office ahead of time to learn what the local fees are and the methods of payment they'll accept (usually cash, a cashier's check, or a money order). Courts won't refund filing fees.
If you don't have the money to pay the filing fee, you can ask to have the payment deferred until your divorce case concludes. When you submit the request ("Affidavit of Substantial Hardship") along with your divorce complaint, you won't need to pay to have your paperwork filed. However, if the court sends you a notice that your request has been denied, your divorce case will be dismissed unless you pay the fee within 30 days. (Ala. Code § 12-19-70 (2022).)
After you've filed the divorce complaint, you must serve your spouse with the divorce papers. You may have an adult acquaintance (not a relative) hand over the documents to your spouse, rather than paying a law enforcement officer or private process server to do it. Make sure that a return copy is filed in court to show that the papers were served.
You may also serve the documents by certified mail, return receipt requested, as long as you file an "Affidavit of Certified Mailing of Process and Complaint" with the court to confirm that you've followed the rules. (Ala. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 4 (2022).)
Depending on local court practices, you might not have to attend a hearing to finalize your uncontested divorce in Alabama. If all of your papers are in order, you have to wait at least 30 days after filing for an uncontested divorce before the judge will sign your final divorce judgment. (Ala. Code § 30-2-8.1(a) (2022).) But it usually takes a while longer (two months or so) before the judge reviews your paperwork and signs the judgment.
You should know, however, that even once you and your spouse are legally divorced, Alabama law bars you from marrying someone else for 60 days after the divorce judgment was entered. (Ala. Code § 30-2-10 (2022).)