Alabama's Divorce Process: What to Expect

When filing for dissolution of marriage, it is important to understand the process of divorce in Alabama and the divorce steps spouses will need to go through. To get an answer to the question “What is the process of divorce?”, you first need to analyze whether you can resolve marriage dissolution issues with your spouse. Your agreement or disagreement will determine the type and the procedure of divorce.

The Alabama divorce process can be confusing for a person who does not have legal education or experience. This article will provide the basic information you may need to prepare for the offline or online divorce process.

If your case is uncontested and you decide to act without involving a lawyer, you can use our document preparation service to get the forms required to start the divorce process in Alabama.

If you wonder how to get a cheap divorce in Alabama, consider one of the three possible options described below and our tips on how to save your money in each of them.

How to Begin a Divorce Process in Alabama

To initiate a divorce, a petitioner needs to file the divorce papers with the court clerk’s office. Here are several additional points you need to know before you start a divorce process:

  1. Most often, uncontested divorces are less complicated than contested ones. If spouses cannot agree on the divorce terms, it may be necessary to hire a lawyer or other specialists, attend several court hearings, etc. These additional steps can significantly extend the process of divorce.
  2. It is necessary to ensure you meet state residency requirements. Spouses can initiate the process of divorce in Alabama at any time if both of them or a respondent resides within the state. If only a petitioner is a resident of Alabama, they must have lived on its territory for at least 6 months before submitting a Complaint to the court.
  3. The grounds for divorce can be no-fault or based on fault. If you do not blame each other for the breakdown of marriage, you can divorce based on complete incompatibility of temperament or irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Fault-based grounds include violence, adultery, abandonment, imprisonment, etc.
  4. Preparing divorce documents is among the first stages of the Alabama divorce process. In most cases, the forms to fill out include a Divorce Complaint, Summons, Plaintiff’s Testimony, the Certificate of Divorce, etc. For the procedure for divorce with children under 18, you may need other forms to decide on issues of child custody, support, and visitation.
  5. You can file for divorce online through the AlaFile system, but it is reasonable to check in advance whether the online divorce process is available in your county.
  6. Divorce steps you need to go through will depend on whether you and your spouse are cooperative. If the other party cooperates, you may avoid the serving stage if they sign a Waiver of Service.
  7. When filing for divorce with minor children, you may need to attend a parenting class if the court deems it necessary.

More information on how to begin a divorce process in Alabama and the state legal requirements can be found in the Alabama Divorce Code. In the next section, we will answer the question, “What is the process of divorce?” in more detail.

Step-by-Step Divorce Process in Alabama

Divorcing couples need to know what the process of divorce is to effectively prepare for the dissolution of marriage and understand how they should act at each stage. The process of divorce in Alabama may differ depending on whether the case is contested and other circumstances.

Common divorce steps during the Alabama divorce process include:


Preparing documents

If you meet the residency requirements for divorce, you can start filling out the necessary forms. Depending on your case, these may include a Complaint, Summons, and other legal papers. In addition to the originals, prepare several copies.


Filing forms with the court

You need to submit your documents to the county clerk's office or start the online divorce process through the AlaFile system. When filing the papers, pay the court fees or fill out an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis to avoid them if your financial situation is difficult. After the clerk checks your paperwork and assigns a case number, copies of documents will be returned to you.


Serving the respondent

To notify the other party of a lawsuit, you need to serve them with divorce papers. Since you cannot deliver documents in person on your own, you need to hire a sheriff, a private process server, or use certified mail. After the other spouse receives the forms, you should file a Certificate of Service with the court to prove the service was completed.


Providing a response

A defendant has 30 days to respond to the complaint. If a respondent does not agree with the divorce terms specified by a plaintiff, they can file a counterclaim.


Scheduling a court hearing

After a defendant provides an answer, parties can schedule a court hearing, if required, to finalize the procedure for divorce. If spouses have agreed on all issues, the judge can grant a divorce at the first hearing. If there are disputes between spouses, the judge can order parties to go through mediation or involve additional experts, such as property evaluators or child custody professionals, to be able to make a final decision on the case.


Finalizing divorce process in Alabama

Regardless of whether the case is contested or not, the judge can make a final decision on divorce no earlier than 30 days after the Summons and Complaint were filed with the court. Most often, uncontested divorces take 2-3 months to complete, depending on the court workload, while contested ones can last more than a year.

Mutual Divorce Process in Alabama

Spouses who have agreed on divorce terms can file for a mutual divorce process in Alabama. It involves a simplified procedure for divorce, which allows parties to obtain a divorce decree in 30 days after filing with the court.

The process of divorce in Alabama for uncontested cases will include the following divorce steps:

Step 1

Preparing for divorce

Spouses will need to fill out the papers required for their marriage dissolution. They will be a Complaint, Summons, Acceptance and Waiver of Service, Marital Settlement Agreement, etc. In the Agreement, spouses should determine the terms of child custody and visitation, spousal and/or child support, and division of assets, liabilities, and debts. Additional forms may be required depending on the specifics of your case.

Step 2

Submitting documents to the court

A plaintiff needs to submit the completed papers to the clerk's office or go through the online divorce process if it is available within the county. As you file for a simplified divorce process in Alabama and have prepared and filed the Acceptance and Waiver of Service, you do not need to serve the other party.

Step 3

Finalizing the process of divorce

If spouses submit all the necessary forms and fairly resolve their marriage termination issues, the judge can grant a divorce without scheduling a court hearing after the 30-day waiting period has expired. You may clarify in advance if the court will require you to attend a final hearing in your specific case.


The divorce process involves the formal dissolution of marriage and the settlement of related issues, such as child custody, alimony, property division, etc.

To start a divorce, you need to determine the necessary documents, prepare them, and file them with the county clerk’s office, paying the mandatory court fees.