Divorce and Family Practice
what we do
Divorce and separation. Custody of your children. Supporting yourself and your family after the breakup. Untangling years of building a life as a single unit and transitioning to separate, distinct lives feels daunting even under the best of circumstances. A family law and divorce attorney with the experience, skill, and understanding to guide you through the legal maze you must navigate to insure your ability to properly care for yourself and your family after a divorce or legal separation.
If you wish to get started on your legal process, we are ready to help you get on the right path to success. We know that any legal decision regarding your marriage, family, freedom, or future has the potential to change your life. We understand the emotional weight of these types of decisions and can help you proceed carefully by allowing you to weigh all available options.
If you call our firm and schedule your initial free case evaluation, we would be happy to sit down with you either in person or discuss your case over the phone. Because our firm is dedicated to providing personal legal advice, we can do whatever is most comfortable for you and your family.
Helping Individuals & Families in Alabama for More Than 10 Years
Our attorney has handled various legal issues ranging from mediation and negotiation to trial litigation. Our breadth of experience includes uncontested divorces, contested divorces, DHR parental rights hearings, and child custody disputes
If you wish to learn more about your rights in any of the above legal issues, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. Our attorney handles every single case personally and would be happy to review your case with you. Once we are able to get to know you, your family, and your specific needs, we can provide you with effective legal counsel that can help you reach your goals and meet your legal needs.
We're committed to getting results
Call our divorce attorney in Huntsville if you want help as you work through some of the most impactful legal issues that you can face during a lifetime. It is our goal to help you and your family progress through your case successfully, no matter how complex the legal issue is. We want to help you and protect your best interests and we are more than confident in our ability to help you get the results that you need.
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Gene M. Bowman
Divorce and family law blog posts
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Child Support: Alabama provides a specific method for determining the amount of child support to be paid by a noncustodial parent. While there are situations where the standard formula may not apply, most cases will be controlled by Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Procedure. Commonly known as "Rule 32 Guidelines," the Rules of Judicial Procedure provide forms and amounts to use for determining how much child support a person should pay.
General Divorce Information
This information is provided to answer some of your questions about divorce (contested and uncontested) and applicable Alabama law. This material does not attempt to get into the specifics of your case; rather, it provides general information that will be useful in consulting with us and as a reference.
In Alabama there are two kinds of divorces, contested and uncontested. An uncontested divorce can often be obtained quickly and is less expense than a contested divorce. It can only occur when both parties agree to all of the terms of the divorce. Disputes over child custody, child support, visitation rights, alimony, or property division, will prohibit an uncontested divorce.
With an uncontested divorce, the parties must sign a divorce agreement that addresses the issues of the parties' marriage: alimony; division of assets; division of debts; child custody; child visitation; child support, etc. The process of obtaining an uncontested divorce is as follows: 1) Information is gathered from the clients; 2) The required documents are prepared and reviewed by the parties; 3) If both parties agree with the terms and conditions expressed in the documents, they sign such paperwork in the presence of a notary; 4) The signed and notarized papers are e-filed with the Court; 5) The Court will review and typically enter a Final Decree of divorce sometime 30 days after filing.
Starting the Proceedings
A divorce case begins with the filing of a complaint in the Circuit Court. Costs vary among the counties but, generally, the filing fee is in approximately $350. The party filing the complaint is the plaintiff and the opposing party, the defendant. The complaint is normally filed in the county where the defendant resides or where the parties resided at the time they separated.
Service of the Complaint
The law of Alabama requires that the defendant must be made aware of the suit for divorce. This procedure is known as service of process. When a divorce complaint is filed, a request is made for the sheriff to deliver a copy, of the complaint to the defendant or for the court clerk to mail a copy by registered mail to the defendant's last known address. To avoid the embarrassment often associated with being served by the sheriffs, the defendant may sign a waiver acknowledging receipt of a copy of the complaint. If your spouse has a lawyer, your spouse may authorize the lawyer to accept service. In some cases, service may be achieved by publishing notice in a newspaper.
Alabama has many grounds for divorce. Some of these grounds are: voluntary abandonment for one year, physical cruelty, adultery, addiction to alcohol or drugs, incompatibility of temperament, and irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. These last two grounds are the basis for what is commonly called "no-fault' divorce. This simply means that the parties’ want a divorce, because they are unable to get alone, to such an extent, that the marriage has suffered irreparable damage. No proof of fault is necessary, although it may be considered by the judge on trial. Most divorces can be obtained on "no-fault" grounds.
There is a residency requirement, which must be satisfied in order for an Alabama court to have jurisdiction to grant a divorce. This requirement is satisfied if both parties or the defendant permanently reside in Alabama. If the defendant does not reside in Alabama, the plaintiff must have been domiciled in Alabama for six (6) months immediately preceding the filing of the divorce complaint. There are limited exceptions which may apply if. You do not qualify under these rules.
Divorce must be filed in the county of the defendants’ residence or county of residence when separation occurred; if the defendant is a nonresident, then in the county in which the other party to the marriage resides. However, if either party is an Alabama resident, divorce may, be filed in any county if the defendant fails to object. Petitions to modify, divorce decrees may be brought at the custodial parent’s option in the county where the custodial parent has resided for the last three (3) years or in the county where the divorce was granted. If the non-custodial parent files the petition to modify, the custodial parent may choose the, venue. Persons in military service and spouses living in Alabama are deemed residents of Alabama for the purpose of maintaining suits at law and equity in this state. When the defendant is a nonresident, the plaintiff must have been a bona fide resident of this state for six (6) months next before filing divorce, which must be alleged and proved.
Common Law Marriage
"A valid common law marriage exists in Alabama when there is capacity to enter into a marriage, present agreement or consent to be husband and wife, public recognition of the existence of the marriage, and consummation." Waller v. Waller, 567 So.2d 869 (Ala.Civ.App. 1990). See also, Hudson v. Hudson, 404 So.2d 82 (Ala.Civ.App. 1981). The intent of the parties can be proven by the parties holding themselves out to others as husband and wife. Once a common law marriage is established, it is no different from a ceremonial marriage. It can only be dissolved by divorce. Alabama has passed legislation that does away with common law marriages that came into being after December 31, 2016. However, common law marriages that came into place before January 1, 2017 may still be recognized.
Divorce vs. Legal Separation
In some instances a couple with marriage problems may wish relief short of divorce. They may object to divorce because of religious convictions or in order to retain health insurance military benefits. In a divorce from bed and board, commonly called a "legal separation," or in a suit for separate maintenance, the parties remain married after the legal proceedings. As in a divorce, legal separation and separate maintenance consider custody of the children, child support, alimony, and property use or division. During the legal separation or separate maintenance, either party can sue for a divorce on one or more grounds cited above.
Divorce proceedings may consist of several events and phases; fact-gathering from you; attempts to achieve an uncontested divorce; filing the complaint, information-gathering from your spouse, records, and witnesses; settlement negotiations and the trial.
The law does not require the parties to be physically separated and living apart on the filing the divorce complaint. However, some judges may require it.
In the past, custody was generally granted to the mother. However, this is not a rule of law. Alabama courts look to the "best interests of the children" and seek to determine which parent is most fit. The desires of older children are often considered by the judge. Regardless of which parent is granted custody, the other parent will be granted reasonable visitation rights, except in extreme circumstances. Joint custody may be an alternative, but many judges do not favor it. It has, however, recently gained more favor.
The Supreme Court of Alabama has adopted guidelines for use in determining the amount of child support to be paid by, the non-custodial parent. Once we have all of the relevant facts, we can estimate the amount of child support. The amount of child support depends on the income of the parties and the needs of the children. The law only requires support of a child until the child’s nineteenth (19th) birthday or until the child becomes self-supporting, whichever occurs first. If special needs are present, such as for a retarded child, child support can be extended past the age of 19. By agreement, the parties can set the amount of child support and extend the age limit.
An uncontested divorce can often be obtained quickly and is less expense than a contested divorce. It can only occur when both parties agree to all of the terms of the divorce. It is often therapeutic for parties to work out a divorce agreement. Disputes over child custody, child support, visitation rights, alimony, or property division, will prohibit an uncontested divorce.
Alabama has adopted an "Income share method to calculate child support. The gross income of the mother and father is used to arrive at "family income." Adjustments are made for pre-existing support payments for other dependent persons and for health insurance costs. The total support based on "family income" and number of children is then located on the guideline chart. An additional adjustment is made for net childcare costs. Then, the total support figure is multiplied by the percentage of the total income of both the mother and father. The non-custodial parent pays his or her percentage of the total support of the other spouse.
The judge will generally approve the visitation periods agreed to by the parties. Judges usually prefer that visitation rights be specific (“every first and third weekend from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m., one month during the summer vacation, one week each Christmas to include Christmas Day on alternate years, alternate spring vacations, Thanksgivings and Easters, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and on the spouse birthday”). The Madison County Courts have established Standard Visitation Schedules for parents that live within 150 miles of each other and for those that live further than 150 miles from each other. Special visitation rights may be awarded, if the parents do not live close to one another.
Alimony is the money paid by one spouse to the other, in recognition of the duty to support and maintain the other spouse. It is available in Alabama. The amount and duration of alimony awarded is different in every case. Some of the facts considered by the judge in awarding alimony are as follows: length of the marriage, ages of the parties, assets and liabilities, income, earning capabilities, the degree of fault of the parties in causing the divorce, stations in life, and health. Alimony shall be terminated upon petition and proof that the receiving spouse has married or is living or cohabiting with a member of the opposite sex.
There is no formula for determining how the property (land, money, automobiles, household, goods, etc.) will be divided. If the parties can reach a reasonable agreement, the judge will generally approve it. Otherwise, the judge will make a decision considering such factors as the following: the length of the marriage, relative earning capacities, assets and liabilities, custody of the children, and the fault of the parties in causing the divorce.
In Madison County, the Courts have established standard rules that govern the behavior of the parties’ after a divorce action is filed and prior to its conclusion. These rules govern the behavior of the parties, child custody, child support, and other matter. Under certain conditions, an emergency hearing can be heard before a judge for temporary relief before the divorce is finalized on a showing of the potential for irreparable harm; the judge may prohibit any party from harming or harassing his or her spouse, and from selling property belonging to the parties. It is important to tell your attorney if you are afraid your spouse will harm you or your children in any way. The judge may direct a spouse, usually the husband, to move out of the house pending the trial. The judge may also grant temporary relief by awarding custody of the children, requiring the payment of child support and alimony, setting visitation rights, and requiring payment of attorney fees, all pending trial.
Changing Wife's Name
The wife may legally change her name through the divorce proceedings to resume the use of her maiden name or name by a previous marriage. The children will retain the name of their father.