What Is a Summary Dissolution and How Do I Qualify?
Not every divorce proceeding needs to be a knock-down, drag-out fight. Although divorce can bring up a lot of challenging emotions, many couples come to the mutual conclusion that their marriage is not in their best interests and seek a way to dissolve the marriage as efficiently and painlessly as possible. There are streamlined procedures available to divorcing parties who are able to come to an agreement and avoid the kinds of disputes that can cause a divorce to become a time-consuming, complex affair. Continue reading for an explanation from our knowledgeable Alabama divorce lawyer about summary dissolutions and related procedures in Alabama.
What is a Summary Dissolution?
To alleviate some confusion we’ve heard from many of our clients: “dissolution of marriage” simply means “divorce.” Dissolution is simply the legal term used in many states to refer to divorce; it is not a separate legal process with different effects, such as a legal separation.
A summary dissolution is a special proceeding in certain states available to divorcing parties who agree on all issues pertinent to the divorce. Summary dissolution is a streamlined, simplified divorce proceeding that allows the parties to obtain a divorce much more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional divorce, often without setting foot in a courtroom.
In California, for example, parties who meet very specific requirements can obtain a summary dissolution. Those requirements include that the parties have no disputes regarding any issue pertinent to the divorce–alimony, child support, distribution of property–that they have no children, have limited community property, and that their marriage was relatively short, among other things. Couples who satisfy the requirements can obtain a “quickie divorce.”
Fast-Lane Divorce in Alabama
Alabama has its own version of the summary dissolution process, known as a no-fault, uncontested divorce. Parties who satisfy certain requirements can obtain a relatively quick divorce without the need to attend court hearings, go through mediation, or jump through many of the other hoops required in more protracted divorce proceedings.
First of all, the divorce should be “no-fault.” More specifically, the parties must agree on the reason for divorce. Alabama technically has two different no-fault grounds for divorce: (1) The parties cannot live together because they have a complete “incompatibility of temperament”; or (2) there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” such that further reconciliation efforts would be both futile and do more harm than good to the best interests of the family. Both grounds for divorce amount to the same thing: The parties have concluded that their relationship has come to an end and legally ending the marriage is the best option.
Assuming the parties agree that the divorce is appropriate and on the proper grounds, in order to obtain the most streamlined divorce proceeding under Alabama law, the parties must agree on everything else pertinent to the divorce. That is, the divorce must be “uncontested.” If the parties disagree on any issue relevant to the divorce proceeding–distribution of property, payment of spousal support, etc.–then the divorce is “contested.”
To streamline the proceedings, the parties should draft and execute a comprehensive marital settlement agreement before filing for divorce. The agreement should cover all aspects of the divorce, including spousal support, equitable distribution of marital property and debts, child support, and custody/visitation arrangements for any minor children. If the parties have minor children and the agreement includes a child support amount that departs from the state guidelines for suggested support, the parties must explain the departure to the court. The parties can attend mediation before filing for divorce if there are any issues on which they cannot yet agree.
Once the parties have reached a complete agreement, they can then file for an uncontested divorce. One party will file for divorce in the local court, including the divorce complaint, a summons, the signed marital settlement agreement, a notarized affidavit testifying to certain relevant facts about the marriage, as well as certain other forms if there are minor children involved. Once the complaint is filed, that spouse must officially “serve” the other spouse with the papers.
Depending on the county and the specific court, the parties may be able to obtain their official divorce judgment as soon as 30 days after filing and without the need for a hearing. Some courts might still require a hearing, especially if there are children involved, but the process will still be much quicker and easier than a contested divorce.