What Are the Legal Separation Laws in AL?
Divorce is a decision that rings in finality. Although some divorced couples do get back together, the concept of divorce is focused on the marriage being irreparable and the parties wishing to sever nearly all legal ties to one another. Some parties consider other options before divorcing, or even in lieu of divorcing when there are legal or financial reasons to stay married (medical insurance, immigration, etc.). In Alabama, married couples have the option to obtain a legal separation prior to or instead of a full divorce. Below, we discuss legal separation in Alabama. If you are considering separation or divorce, or if you have other family law concerns, reach out to a professional and compassionate Alabama divorce and family law attorney.
Separation vs. Divorce
A divorce is a formal legal dissolution of the marriage. During the process, the parties or the judge will make a final decision about the division of marital property, child custody, alimony, and child support. At the end of the process, the couple is legally divorced, meaning that each party is free to remarry.
A legal separation is a similar process, but at the end of it, the parties will still be legally married. A separation proceeding can be used to decide the same issues as in a divorce–the division of property, child custody, financial support, etc. The parties will live separately and can make independent decisions concerning property, debt, etc. However, they will still be legally married. If one party wishes to marry someone else, they would need to have the separation converted into a divorce.
Separation is More Flexible
Separation, unlike divorce, is not a final resolution of the marriage. As such, the terms of separation are more flexible. Couples can modify the terms of their separation, including financial support and child custody, they can ask a court to legally convert the separation into a divorce, or they can cancel the separation and reunite at any time. Modifications can be made upon written consent of both parties and ratification by the court, or through court order upon proof of a material change of circumstances. Either party can petition to dissolve the marriage following separation.
How to File for Separation in Alabama
Alabama Code Section 30-2-40 governs legal separations. The only requirements for legal separation are the following:
- The parties have satisfied the jurisdictional requirements for dissolution of marriage. At least one party must reside in Alabama and either the defendant lives in Alabama or the plaintiff has resided in Alabama for at least six months.
- The marriage is irretrievably broken, there is a complete incompatibility of temperament, or one or both parties wishes to live separate and apart.
Your Alabama family lawyer can help you establish the jurisdictional and residency requirements and go over your options for separation or divorce.