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Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Alabama Divorces

In Alabama, a court does not have subject matter jurisdiction unless the requirements of section 30-2-5, Code of Alabama (1975) are satisfied, which provides:

“When the defendant is a nonresident, the other party to the marriage must have been a bona fide resident of this state for six months next before the filing of the complaint, which must be alleged in the complaint and proved.”

“If the residency requirements of set forth in section 30-2-5 are not met, the trial court lacks jurisdiction over the divorce action.” Alsaikhan v. Alakel, 173 So. 3d 925 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015), citing Chavis v. Chavis, 394 So. 2d 54, 55 (Ala. Civ. App. 1981); Seymour v. Seymour, 597 So. 2d 1368, 1369 (Ala. Civ. App. 1992).  If the Defendant is not a resident of Alabama and was not a resident when Plaintiff filed his/her divorce complaint, then the Plaintiff must have been a bona fide resident of Alabama for the six months immediately before the filing of a complaint, and this durational domicile requirement must be alleged in the complaint and proved. Ala. Code section 30-2-5.  “Under Alabama law, the requirement of ‘residency’ with respect to Ala. Code section 30-2-5 has been construed to mean that one’s ‘domicile’ must have been in Alabama for the preceding six months.” Ex parte Ferguson, 15 So. 3d 520 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008); Alsaidkhan, 173 So. 3d 925, 930.  

Further the requirement that a plaintiff's bona fide residence be pleaded in the divorce complaint and proved when the defendant is not an in-state resident has been strictly construed as shown in one case in which the wife’s “vague account” of her movements before the filing of the divorce compliant was held insufficient to satisfy the statute. Livingston v. Livingston, 835 So. 2d 1021 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002).  Jurisdiction requirements must be supported by proof. Id.; Meares v. Meares, 256 Ala. 596, 56 So. 2d 661, 663 (1952).  Without adequate language in the divorce complaint as strictly required by section 30-2-5, the action is due to be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.  Skieff v. Cole-Skieff, 884 So. 2d 880 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003) (affirming dismissal of divorce complaint for lack of jurisdiction). 

In the case of Volin v. Volin, 272 Ala. 85, 128 So. 2d 490 (1961), the court found that language in the divorce complaint stating that she was a resident in this state for the “length of time required by law” was held inadequate to satisfy the statute.”  Consequently, if the  Plaintiff’s complaint fails to comply with the requirements of Alabama Code section 30-2-5, his/her divorce action is due to be dismissed.

Bowman Law Firm

Huntsville, Alabama