Same-sex marriages were legally recognized in Alabama following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015. However, some conservative judges in several counties continued to oppose issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In 2019, state lawmakers passed a bill that replaced marriage licenses with certificates, so judges had no other option but to recognize same-sex marriage and gay divorce in Alabama.
Same-sex divorce in Alabama is granted to spouses who are officially married according to state law. As for common-law marriage, it was abolished in 2017. Divorce laws in Alabama are the same for same-sex unions and heterosexual marriages. All couples can file for same-sex divorce in Alabama if they meet the residency requirements and submit specific documents to the court.
Same-sex divorce online
These days, do-it-yourself divorce is widespread among spouses who can reach an amicable agreement on the terms of their parting (child custody, alimony, property division). Such same-sex couples can file for divorce in Alabama after collecting all the necessary documentation and submitting it to the county clerk’s office.
Divorce over the Internet is a fast and easy way to get same-sex divorce paperwork in Alabama without a lawyer. When an attorney is not involved in your case, it becomes much more affordable. For instance, the website alabamaonlinedivorce.com provides clients with high-quality printable documents and customer support that guides you through the filing process for only $139.
Same-sex divorce papers in Alabama
Before you decide how to file a same-sex divorce in Alabama, consider your case’s circumstances and whether you can opt for an uncontested divorce. It requires less documentation and time to obtain a final decree.
Same-sex divorce papers in Alabama can be prepared either by a lawyer or collected by yourself. Basically, same-sex divorce forms in Alabama for uncontested cases without children include a Complaint for Divorce, Separation Agreement, Testimony of Plaintiff, Domestic Relations Information Sheet, and some other documents. For couples with children, there are additional documents related to child support. More detailed information can be obtained at a county clerk’s office.
Valid grounds for same-sex divorce in Alabama
Same-sex spouses can file for divorce in Alabama if they comply with the residency requirements. Alabama law requires a person to be a bona fide resident of the state for six consecutive months before filing for divorce.
To start the divorce process in Alabama, same-sex couples must also provide the court with grounds for separation. There are two no-fault and ten fault-based grounds to choose from (AL Code § 30-2-1):
Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage;
Abandonment for one year;
Imprisonment for two years with a minimum sentence of seven years;
Continual substance abuse;
Incurable insanity with confinement to a mental institution for five successive years;
Separation for two years;
Commission of crime against nature before or after the marriage;
Pregnancy of one of the spouses without the knowledge of the other;
Physical and incurable incapacity to enter into the marriage state.
Custody of the Child
Couples with children can get a same-sex divorce in Alabama only after the court adopts all necessary child custody arrangements. Both parents have equal rights to be awarded legal or physical custody. Family law in Alabama ensures that care and visitation decisions are made in the child’s best interests. That is why joint legal custody and equal parenting time are widely supported in the local courts (AL Code § 30-3-150).
The procedure that determines the best interests of children includes consideration of the following factors:
- sex and age of children;
- social, emotional, educational needs of each child;
- the home environment of each party;
- age, mental, and physical health of each party;
- the capacity of each parent to meet the needs of a child;
- relationship of each party with a child;
- each child’s preference if he or she is of sufficient age;
- other relevant factors.
Several Alabama counties have mandatory requirements for all parents to attend a parenting class to help their children adapt to the separation.
Alabama uses Child Support Guidelines to determine the amount of financial support from each parent to their children. These guidelines establish a basic child support obligation plus health care costs and work-related child-care expenses.
According to the Income Shares Model implemented in Alabama, child support amount is based on the combined adjusted gross income and number of children. Gross income includes salaries, wages, bonuses, pensions, dividends, Social Security benefits, and other income sources.
Any party who wants to change the amount of support must apply for a modification and prove that there have been substantial and continuing changes in material circumstances since the previous child support order.
In any divorce proceeding, one of the spouses can request financial support from the other party. A judge may grant periodic or rehabilitative alimony if: (1) the asking party lacks separate property or it is insufficient to maintain the standard of living during the marriage, and (2) the other spouse can provide such support (AL Code § 30-2-57).
When determining whether alimony is equitable, a judge considers the following important factors:
- the length of the marriage;
- the standard of living during the marriage;
- marital misconduct;
- the age and health of the spouses;
- earning ability and employment prospects;
- the contribution of the one spouse to the education of the other;
- the extent to which one party sacrificed their career opportunities or income for the benefit of the family;
- dissipation of property;
- other relevant factors.
Periodic alimony can’t exceed the duration of the marriage if it lasted less than twenty years. Each spouse may apply for a modification of the spousal support order to show a significant change in financial circumstances.
Divorce for same-sex couples in Alabama may include division of marital property between the spouses. It comprises everything that was acquired after the wedding except for inheritances and gifts. All property brought into a marriage by either spouse is considered separate property and cannot be divided. If a prenuptial agreement specifies which part of the marital estate goes to which spouse, the property will be distributed accordingly (AL Code § 30-2-51-b).
How is property divided when the spouses do not have any preliminary agreements? According to local rules, it will be distributed equitably, which does not mean in half. A judge will consider all relevant circumstances and contributions of each spouse to the marital property to divide assets and debts as they deem fair.
A person married to a same-sex spouse can get a divorce in Alabama quickly and inexpensively by using mediation. It is an alternative solution for couples ready to discuss their issues face-to-face outside of a courtroom. Negotiations may include child custody, spousal support, and property division. Spouses are free to choose whether they want to attend mediation together with a lawyer.
The process is guided by a specially trained third party called a mediator who cannot give spouses any legal advice. A married couple can reach an amicable agreement on critical issues and the terms of their marriage dissolution before a court hearing using mediation. The results of this negotiation is a settlement agreement that a mediator transfers to the court for further consideration. If the couples cannot find a compromise, their case would proceed to a divorce trial.
Filing fees for same-sex divorce in Alabama
When one of the spouses in a same-sex marriage comes to court to file for divorce in Alabama, they must pay a filing fee. Depending on each county’s fee schedule and minor children’s presence, you will have to pay between $300-$400. If a person cannot afford to pay a filing fee, there is an option to ask the court to waive the payment. They will have to provide financial information to prove it (income vs. expenses).
You also need to decide how to serve your spouse with the papers. In general, serving means sending copies of documents to your spouse. You will pay $20 for service by the Sheriff and $7-$10 for Certified Mail.
How long will it take
Alabama has a 30-day waiting period that starts when the complaint is filed with the clerk’s office. A court hearing can be held, and a final decree obtained after this period has passed.
The length of the divorce process depends on how well the spouses agree on their case issues. Uncontested cases usually last two-three months, whereas contested ones can take up to a year to be resolved.
The location of a respondent can also extend the process. When you know your spouse’s place of residence, you can serve them with papers at their known address. But for a person married to a same-sex spouse, it is sometimes challenging to get a divorce in Alabama if the spouse is out of state.