Frequently Asked Questions about the Legal Process

If I file the initial complaint or summons, do I have an advantage?
In most cases it does not make a difference in the amount of support or division of assets. However, the one who files often has a greater desire for the divorce and may be willing to give up more in order to have the process resolved quickly. If a spouse leaves town in order to flee the summons there are measures that can be taken to get the divorce proceedings rolling.

Are there advantages to a no-fault divorce?
The benefit of no-fault divorce is that the victory does not go to the spouse with the greatest number of complaints. Each spouse is seen as an equal contributor in the death of the marriage, so a more equitable agreement is possible. No-fault divorce is not always quick and easy, as people can get very greedy during the resolution process.

Are there advantages to an Adversarial Divorce?
The benefit of adversarial divorce is that it makes it easier to sever emotional ties that can be very detrimental later on. The fight of an adversarial divorce is also an outlet for pain that otherwise might be held in.

Can you get a divorce if you do not know where your spouse is?
Only if you have made a serious effort to locate the missing spouse. You must also be willing to testify in court under oath that a good effort has been made. Then service of process may be made through a publication typically the local newspaper. This is known as Constructive Service.

How are debts incurred during the marriage divided in divorce?
Debts are not uncommon at a time of divorce and may be the cause of problems that lead a couple to separation. Most attorneys will attempt to settle the debt disputes in the Marital Settlement Agreement. Typically couples should withdraw from all joint bank account during the divorce process.

What is an uncontested case?
An uncontested case is a divorce proceeding  is one in which no legal issues are disputed. Both parties tend to agree on all matters and want the process to end quickly. Sometimes an uncontested case is the result of a missing spouse or one that refuses to participate.

What is a contested case?
The minute the complaint or summons is filed the case becomes contested, and is contested until all disputes, such as support, custody, visitation, and division of assets, are resolved. Many divorces start out as uncontested under claims of no-fault, but become contested when disputes over legal issues take place.

If spouses agree on everything do they need an attorney?
If you are going to have an uncontested divorce and you both agree on everything it is still recommended that you hire an attorney to review the papers and make sure everything is equitable. Without an attorney’s review you may sign off on something you thought was discussed but actually was not. Note that the state of Alabama will not allow one attorney to represent both parties due to the conflict of interest.

Can I get more money if the divorce was not my fault?
Most likely not; however laws vary by state. (ADFP should check this)

Most likely not, because the state of Alabama does not weigh in marital behavior when making asset distribution decisions, or awarding alimony????

What does a mediator do?
A mediator may be used if the spouses do not wish to fight in the court room. The mediator does not make decisions. The mediator helps the spouses to understand and express their objectives and achieve them through negotiation.

What is an arbitration?
Arbitration is less formal than a regular court hearing. A panel (normally other experienced attorneys) will hear both sides of the story. Each spouse will have the opportunity to disclose all information necessary to prove his or her claims. Each side must be represented by legal counsel, and the decision reached by the panel is final. The decision is then attached to the divorce complaint to become part of the final divorce decree.

What are pleadings?
The initial formal written complaint or summons that is filed with the court and delivered to the spouse is the first pleading, and the response is the second. The response will either admit or deny the allegations made in the complaint. Basically they are the papers filed to formally put a case before the court.

How are temporary orders obtained?
It starts with a proceeding in which one side will request some kind of relief, such as custody and support, before the final judgment on the divorce has been made. Since the divorce process can be quite lengthy at times, many disputes that arise during the divorce must be resolved on a temporary basis. If necessary, testimony in court hearings will resolve disputes over temporary arrangements; however, it is not recommended to take spiteful unnecessary actions.

What if a spouse does not follow temporary orders?
A petition for contempt will need to be filed. If the delinquent spouse cannot show good reason for disregarding the order, then a fine or imprisonment may take place.

How long does it take to get a divorce?
It depends on the difficulty of the case. If it is uncontested and agreements are made very quickly,  a divorce may take less than six weeks. If the case is contested, it could a year or more.