- The parties reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce. One of the two parties takes that agreement to a lawyer who generates the paperwork that needs to be filed to obtain a divorce.
- Once the paperwork is approved by both parties and both parties have signed, the documents are filed at the courthouse and the Judge signs a Final Order Granting the Divorce.
- Both parties can contribute to the attorney’s fee and the court costs for filing the divorce. However, the attorney is only representing one party. The other party has the option of hiring an attorney to review the paperwork.
- Generally, an uncontested divorce is much cheaper and much quicker than a contested divorce. The attorney’s fee is normally a flat rate, with the amount determined by the complexity of the divorce.
- Once the papers are filed with the Court, there is a thirty-day waiting period before the divorce becomes final.
- If there are any issues that the parties cannot agree on, one party must file a contested divorce. The other party will file an answer to that divorce and then the parties and their attorneys begin preparing for trial.
- The length of time before the trial depends on which judge is assigned to your case and how many cases are ahead of yours on the trial docket.
- The filing fee is the same amount as that of an uncontested divorce, but the attorney’s fee in a contested divorce is based on the amount of time spent on your case. You will pay an initial retainer to cover fees and expenses. Each month you receive an itemized bill which details all of the work done on your case. If the case resolves early in the process, the unearned retainer will be returned to you.
- A contested divorce is most expensive if the case goes all the way through a trial. However, the parties can file a settlement agreement at any time if they are able to resolve their differences. If the parties reach an agreement, the Judge generally signs a final order within a few days after the agreement is submitted to the Court, provided the thirty (30) day waiting period has passed since the divorce action was initially filed.
CHILD CUSTODY, SUPPORT AND VISITATION
The two types of custody in Alabama are legal custody and physical custody.
- Legal custody determines which parent has the right to participate in making major decisions with regard to any children under the age of nineteen (19).
- Physical custody refers to the residence where the child lives primarily.
- Historically, judges would award joint legal custody to both parents and physical custody to the parent who had been providing the primary care for the child. The parent awarded physical custody is the “custodial parent”.
- If one parent is awarded sole or primary physical custody the non-custodial parent is awarded visitation and would pay child support based on guidelines set forth by the State of Alabama. In the event the parties cannot agree on a major decision with regard to the child, most judges allow the custodial parent to make the final decision.
- In the last few years, more and more judges are awarding joint custody to both parents which means they share joint legal and joint physical custody. In these cases, the parents must come up with a parenting plan to address all issues related to the care and custody of the minor child.
- The parties must decide which parent has primary authority and responsibility regarding the child’s involvement in academic, religious, civic, cultural, athletic and other activities and on medical and dental care. The parents must also have an agreement on how the child’s expenses shall be paid. If the parties cannot agree, the court may devise a parenting plan.
- If the child will live primarily with one parent, the other parent may be ordered to pay child support. Child support in Alabama is based on the gross monthly income of both parents and is calculated by a formula known as Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration.