The problem with the US court system is that many families aren’t eligible for legal aid yet cannot afford to hire a lawyer for each spouse. Does the state of Alabama offer them other options to dissolve their marriage? In fact, yes. A DIY divorce, mediation, and online divorce are all lawyer-free routes that are more affordable than full legal representation.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer?
Let’s be honest. No one wants to lose what belongs to them. But do those who have never attended law school know what they have the right to in a dissolution of marriage and how to secure it? Most don’t. That’s why many divorcing couples go into debt, forking over exorbitant legal fees.
The average cost of divorce in the US varies from state to state, from a $30,000 retainer in New York to $3,000 in Alabama. Alabama family law attorneys charge $200 to $400 hourly. Some law firms offer flat-fee divorce packages ranging from $900 to $1,500 for an uncontested divorce.
But if a couple is fighting over custody or the equitable distribution of marital assets and debt, the sky is the limit for the cost of their divorce. However, if the spouses are willing to keep things civil, they can forgo legal presentation altogether.
Thus, the bottom line is whether the spouses are able and willing (1) to be rational and not squabble over the divorce-related matters; and (2) to weed through legal formalities on their own.
Requirements for a DIY Divorce in Alabama
The truth is that self-representation in divorce is an available option in each state. Alabama allows divorcing couples to have a Do-It-Yourself divorce without an attorney if they meet the requirements for an uncontested divorce.
An uncontested divorce is a no-fault divorce where the spouses explain their decision to break up by ‘incompatibility’ / ‘irreconcilable differences’ or separation of at least two years. If one spouse wants to cite any other fault from the list of grounds for divorce, they need to hire a lawyer and file for a contested divorce.
The other requirements for an uncontested divorce include:
- Residency requirements. The state of Alabama requires one spouse to have been a resident for at least six months before filing the paperwork for divorce.
- Mutual agreement to have a divorce. Both spouses must sign the divorce forms.
- Resolution to all the divorce-related matters. Both spouses must sort out all the issues, such as:
- Child custody & Child support. The custodial and material care of the children is a crucial issue a divorcing couple must resolve. Whatever your arrangement – shared-custody schedule or sole physical custody – it should be put in writing and notarized. Then, if the parents are in agreement in front of the judge at a court hearing, the court grants a divorce without friction.
- Spousal support (a.k.a. alimony). Alabama requires couples to settle spousal support (unlike some other states that require waiving alimony rights for an uncontested divorce). The amount of an alimony order depends on the length of the marriage and each spouse’s financial and physical state.
- Property division. Using equitable distribution laws, Alabama recognizes separate property as commingled property (marital assets). In uncontested divorces, the judge usually accepts the spouses’ decision if it is fair and just.
What Does it Take to Go Pro Se in Alabama?
The fact that you don’t need a lawyer to kick-start a divorce process in Alabama may come as a surprise for many. Yet an even bigger challenge is doing it all on your own. Fear not! There are just two steps in a DIY divorce in Alabama, also called a pro se process (meaning ‘doing something oneself’ in Latin).
- Prepare the divorce paperwork. The divorce forms are available at local courthouses, the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts’ website https://eforms.alacourt.gov/do-it-yourself-forms/, or through Internet divorce services. Petitioners print out the forms and fill them out at home. Or, petitioners choose an online divorce service that will do it for them. An online divorce service is basically a tool for completing the forms online.
- File the forms. Petitioners take the original and two copies of the completed forms, signed and notarized, to the courthouse to file with the local clerk or (e)mail the forms. Filing for an uncontested divorce in Alabama will cost $215-$230.
As you can see, the petitioner doesn’t need to give notice of the divorce proceeding by “serving” the respondent because they present a united front to the court and sign the paperwork together.
Whether you attend a court hearing or not depends on how you file for divorce. In addition to filing for divorce in person, Alabama allows e-filing and filing by mail. After the mandatory 30-day waiting period, Alabama courts finalize uncontested divorces that meet the requirements.
Prepare an Application for Divorce Online
Getting a divorce in Alabama has never been easier if spouses reach a peaceful resolution. In Alabama, it is possible to complete your divorce 100% online. Web-based divorce companies will prepare the divorce documents for you and provide filing instructions for Alabama courts. Preparing divorce papers over the Internet is an affordable and quick solution.
What’s Your Choice?
Some couples are able to reduce their divorce expenses to filing fees. Others will spend more than a few hundred bucks. Just remember that the price tag on your divorce can be lower than you ever imagined.
Going pro se with your divorce doesn’t fully negate legal services. Some couples prefer to pay an hour or two in legal fees to have their settlement agreement drafted or reviewed. Others use mediation services provided by law firms to decide on custody and the distribution of marital assets & debts.
Use inexpensive online divorce services and get through the legal formalities as fast as it is officially possible in Alabama.