You may be hoping for the fastest end possible to your marriage, but many states take a cautionary approach to the notion of a “quick divorce.” It would be a shame to decide based on emotion, only to change your mind after the all the ink has dried and legal matters have been settled.
Alabama is one of the states that would prefer you take your divorce matter more slowly, and they enforce this with a mandatory waiting period. How long a divorce takes in Alabama, however, depends on several factors, chief among them whether you and your spouse can agree on major issues.
Alabama’s Cooling Off Period
Alabama law requires that couples have a cooling off period, also called a waiting period, that lasts for 30 days and begins on the day you file for divorce. Under the most ideal and quickest scenario, you will never have a divorce in Alabama that is concluded in under 30 days. The state has this rule to make sure that you aren’t going to change your mind after you file the legal paperwork to end your marriage.
A Spouse’s Time Limit to Respond
Another time limit to consider is the other spouse’s period to reply to a complaint for divorce. This period is also 30 days, which can overlap with the state’s mandatory cooling off period.
When just one spouse files a complaint for divorce, they are required to “serve” the paperwork on the other spouse. If the divorce is amicable, the other spouse can just sign for the paperwork at the courthouse, which will speed up the process.
Otherwise, there is a slight variation to this time. This process can be a challenge if they have trouble finding the other spouse or if the spouse avoids the service.
Once the other spouse has been successfully served, it is only then that the 30-day clock will begin to run for a response. For example, if it takes two weeks to serve your spouse with the paperwork, you are already six weeks into the divorce before you can ask a judge to sign the final order.
Uncontested Divorces in Alabama
Your divorce could be over with much quicker if it is classified as an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse can agree on the major issues related to asset and debt distribution, custody, child support, and alimony, you can include all those terms in the settlement agreement that you will submit to the family law court.
Your settlement agreement can be submitted while you wait for that 30-day cooling off period to conclude. Once over, the judge will review your paperwork and give it their seal of approval if they consider it to be reasonable. Considering the waiting period and a few other logistics, you could reasonably complete this process within about six to eight weeks.
What is a Contested Divorce?
Contested divorces in Alabama take much longer. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a long list, or even a few, major issues, you will need to go to court and ask them to help with those decisions. As soon as the other spouse files a response to the complaint for divorce, the court will set a trial date. This is often several months out.
According to Alabama law, both parties are also required to participate in mediation or a pre-trial conference before taking a case to trial. Many cases have to be postponed due to the availability of parties or failure to meet other requirements of the court.
After the trial, you will need to wait even longer for the judge to make their final ruling and issue an order. In Alabama, a contested divorce can take anywhere from several months to several years, depending on the issues being litigated.
Speak with a Trusted Alabama Family Law Attorney
Whether your divorce is uncontested or contested, it is vital that you safeguard the rights and financial future of yourself and any dependents. The Alabama family law attorneys at Alsobrook & Jackson, Attorneys at Law can explain your options and provide representation in a divorce, custody, support, or other family law matter.
Contact our Opelika, Alabama office now at 334-737-3718 or online to schedule a free review of your case.