Published on:

A question I am often asked is what makes an Alabama divorce uncontested? The truth is that the concept of an “uncontested” divorce is not necessarily easy for people unfamiliar with the subject to grasp. To be “uncontested” under Alabama divorce law the parties must agree on ALL issues, not just some of them. Both parties can agree they no longer want to be married and want a divorce but that alone does not make the divorce “uncontested.” If there is any issue, dispute, lack of agreement or simple unwillingness on either party to sign then, under Alabama law, the divorce is contested rather than contested. Common areas of dispute include child custody, child visitation schedules, the division of debt, the division of assets, the division of retirement benefits, the division of military retirement benefits or pension benefits, property division, the division of complex assets, child support, tax deductions associated with the children, the payment of college expenses or other post minority support, life insurance benefits and, of course, alimony or spousal support.

While these disagreements are the most common I have seen uncontested divorces break down and have to convert to a contested divorce on just about every conceivable dispute including disagreements over the custody of pets, disagreements over the use of one party’s last name, disagreements over who will be the plaintiff and who will be the defendant and even, simply, when one party does not believe in divorce and will not sign under any condition. Despite the fact that they do not “contest” the divorce in that they do not want to have a hearing or otherwise present evidence in a disputed fashion the divorce must still proceed as contested because the uncontested documents cannot be filed without signature.

In addition to the ease in which an uncontested divorce can be obtained the distinction between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce also has financial implications. Uncontested divorces are often handled by attorneys in Alabama on a flat fee basis.   The flat fee is based on the fixed time it takes to convert the information provided by the client into the pleadings and forms required under Alabama law. These forms include a complaint, affidavit of nonrepresentation, answer, waiver, testimony and final order at minimum and if children are involved a host of child support forms related to the parents’ income, the cost of healthcare coverage for the children and the cost of daycare/afterschool care and proof of compliance or an explanation for noncompliance with Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. I will add here that cheaper is not better. You note that the required documents do not include a settlement agreement spelling out specifically all the provisions of your agreement in detail.

Many attorneys doing uncontested divorces “on the cheap” do not include for the price quoted a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a lot like a receipt. If you get home and something you purchased is missing or if you are charged for some item you did not receive you can go back with proof and contest the charges. If an items breaks or has problems you can seek a refund. With no settlement agreement any trip back to court will have you starting again at square one and depending on the issue you may not be able to get recourse at all. Continue reading →

Published on:

An Alabama spouse who is near the 10th year of marriage may have a number of incentives to stick out the marriage until he or she hits the decade mark. In addition to being eligible to draw off a former spouse’s earnings record for Social Security benefits, 10 years often indicates that it was a long marriage. This distinction can sometimes result in a family court deciding to award spousal support at a higher rate and for a longer duration than a shorter-term marriage. Additionally, 10 years often has important implications regarding prenuptial agreements.

Perhaps proving this point is the impending divorcez between Hollywood stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Although media speculation is that the couple has been separated for months, Ms. Garner only filed for divorce the day after the couple shared their 10th wedding anniversary.

Some have theorized that the timing was no coincidence. This is because many prenuptial agreements include provisions regarding the length of the marriage, such as providing a stated amount of support for each year that the couple was together.

Published on:

When Alabama residents consider a divorce, they may focus on how their assets could be divided once the marriage has officially ended. However, it’s important to note that both assets and debts are split after a divorce. Whether someone will be obligated to pay off a debt or not frequently depends on the type of debt in question.

For example, credit card balances on accounts that are in both spouses’ names will generally end up being split up evenly. However, if a credit card is only in one name, the balance will usually end up being that person’s responsibility.

Whether someone ends up with a mortgage and the marital home often depends on the incomes of both people and if the marriage resulted in children. The person with the greater income or custody of children will generally be given both the home and mortgage responsibility. That spouse will often have to buy out the other person’s interest in the home. Couples also have the option of selling a home and splitting the profit, which avoids the issue of homeownership debt.

Published on:

There has been a bigger effort to implement balanced child custody legislation during the first half of 2015, and this could lead to divorced parents spending time with their children more equally. Divorced spouses with children in Alabama might want to know that almost 20 states are considering steps that aim to change the laws that determine which parent is awarded legal custody.

According to a significant number of studies, the best way to prevent children from being negatively affected after a divorce is to grant equal parenting time to the parents. Researchers have also found that children who live with both of their parents are less stressed than children who live with just one parent. However, mothers are still overwhelmingly favored in child custody battles. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that mothers are the custodial parents in about 83 percent of the cases. At the end of 2013, the Nebraska Administrative Office of the Courts reported that 72 percent of fathers in that state who were not awarded custody between 2002 and 2012 only saw their children an average of 5.5 days a month.

In 2014, the first nationwide study provided an in-depth ranking of custody statutes for each state, and 25 states were ranked D or worse. No state was awarded an A. Since then, several states have made an effort to improve upon their custody laws. Utah, for example, enacted legislation that took effect in May 2015 and which increases the number of overnights per year that noncustodial parents receive from 80 to 145. Legislators in both Colorado and Texas have introduced equal parenting bills as well.

Published on:

Alabama residents may be surprised at the $4.5 billion price tag one billionaire was ordered to pay his ex-wife as her share of their marital assets in 2014, but on June 11, a judge reduced that amount to $609 million. Prior to the higher court’s decision, it was believed by her lawyer to have been the largest award ever handed down in a divorce action.

The couple is Russian, and the case is unfolding in Switzerland. Swiss law in general entitles divorcing spouses to an equal share of marital assets. Her attorney plans to take the case to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

The wife of the Russian oligarch filed for divorce in 2008, a few years after he had put many of his assets into offshore trust funds in Cyprus. He is also the owner of the Monaco Football Club and has property in the United States. He made his money in the fertilizer business, and his wealth has been estimated at $8.5 billion.

Published on:

Smartphones are not only changing the way we communicate, they are also changing the way we divorce.

According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 97 percent of divorce lawyers throughout the nation said that they have noticed an increase in the number of divorce cases that involve evidence gathered from smartphones and other electronic wireless devices over the past three years.

The most common electronic evidence being used came from text messages, but emails and call histories were also commonly cited in divorce cases, the survey indicated

Published on:

Spousal support, alimony and alimony all refer to the same thing: financial support paid by a higher-earning spouse to a lesser-earning spouse after the marriage has ended.

In Alabama, spousal maintenance is not an automatic right. That means the spouse who wants support after the marriage will have to prove to the court that support is necessary and that the other spouse has the ability to pay.

An experienced family law attorney can be very important in this process.

Published on:

If you are thinking about adopting a child in Alabama, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the steps involved. Adopting a child is one of the most important processes you will go through in life, and knowing what to expect can take away some of the anxiety that can arise.

Before any steps can be taken toward adopting a child, you must make sure that you qualify. In addition to being ready, willing and able to care for a child, Alabama law has certain requirements that must be met before an individual or couple can be allowed to legally adopt, including:

  • You must be older than 19-years-old.
  • If you are married, you must be married for at least three years.
  • You (or your spouse) must be a U.S. citizen.
  • You must have proper housing and space for a child.
  • You must be healthy enough to care for a child.
  • You must go through a thorough background check.

If you meet all of these requirements, you can go on to the procedural steps involved:

Published on:

We all know that divorce can be difficult on kids, but a recently-released study helps to explain more precisely how they can be affected.

The study determined that psychosomatic symptoms — which are physical problems that result from emotional distress — might be more common in teenagers whose parents have separated or divorced.

It was determined that teens who lived primarily with only one parent because of a divorce or separation were more likely to experience psychosomatic symptoms than teens who lived with both parents. 

Published on:

If you were unsatisfied with the ruling in your divorce case, you may be wondering if you can appeal the judge’s decision. Ultimately, the straightforward answer to that question is that it will take more than you being unhappy with the outcome of your divorce in order to successfully appeal what was decided.

When you and your spouse cannot reach a settlement on all of the issues to your divorce, you essentially turn the decision-making power over to the family court judge. There is no guarantee that you will agree with whatever the judge decides. 

However, you may be able to file an appeal if an error was committed or the decision was otherwise unjust. Judges are only human, which means that they do make mistakes from time to time. Here are a few examples of situations that could lead to rulings being altered, amended or vacated: