Alabama is a state that recognizes legal separation. As a Birmingham divorce attorney, a certain percentage of my clients typically ask about this option as an alternative to divorce. Legal separation, which is sometimes referred to as "judicial separation," "separate maintenance" or "divorce a mensa et thoro" (translation: "divorce from bed-and-board"), is way in which a married couple may legally formalize what can be a de facto separation while at the same time remaining legally married.
People choose legal separation for a number of reasons, but it usually is done if there is still some hope of saving the marriage, or if one or both of the parties (or even their families) have a moral or religious objection to divorce.
For the state of Alabama to recognize a legal separation, the parties shall enter a decree of legal separation if all of the following requirements are satisfied:
- The court determines that the jurisdictional requirements for the dissolution of a marriage have been met
- The court determines the marriage is irretrievably broken or there exists a complete incompatibility of temperament or one or both of the parties desires to live separate and apart
- To the extent that it has jurisdiction to do so, the court has considered, approved, or provided for child custody, and has entered an order for child support in compliance with Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration
As implied above, a legal separation does not necessarily lead to a divorce. It does leave the door open to reconciliation, in which case the parties usually need not do anything more, as they are still legally married. If, however, the couple does not manage to find common ground, they may then wish to go through with a divorce, which must be filed for explicitly.
As an Alabama family law and divorce lawyer, I have handled many legal separations as well as helped cleints through divorces. The law can many times be complex and confusing. A qualified legal professional with experience in family law can be a great help when guiding people through the legal process during what can be a truly difficult and emotional time.