Here in Alabama, as elsewhere across the country, divorce is a serious step for any married person. From a personal point of view, separation or divorce is a truly emotional event. From a legal standpoint the process of divorce is fairly well defined, although the steps toward the final divorce decree will vary due to individual circumstances.
As a Birmingham divorce lawyer and family law attorney, I tell my clients to try to remain as cool and collected as possible. While emotions can run quite high, this is a legal process and you will benefit from keeping your feelings in check as much as possible as you follow the advice of your attorney. The following is the first of a two-part discussion on the process of divorcing in Alabama.
As previously mentioned, very few divorces follow the exact same steps, but whichever direction your particular situation takes you, it is always wise to seek professional help as early as possible. A qualified divorce attorney can guide you along the way. Other professionals who can be of great assistance in these trying times include therapists and financial advisors.
Your most important resource will be your attorney, which makes choosing one a critical process in itself. First and foremost, you need to learn about your legal rights as they pertain to an Alabama divorce. A lawyer well versed in this state's divorce and family law is your best choice and he or she will be able to clearly explain the details regarding separation, spousal support and alimony, child custody and visitation, as well as guardianship, child support and future division of assets.
The first step is financial. Here you must gather all of your financial documents. Be sure to make a copy of all paperwork that you have collected and present this information to your attorney. At this point, you will be able to learn what the financial impact of a separation will have on you and your children, if any. It is important to understand that while some couples have the means to physically separate, other unfortunately cannot, which may mean taking up residence in different parts of the same house.
An essential part of the financial evaluation is making the determination of which debts were incurred before the separation, as well as after. This should include any shared bills paid and improvements, if any, made to common property during the separation. You should also use this time to update your insurance coverage if any of those improvements added value to your property.
At this point you should decide whether or not you and your spouse will be filing your taxes jointly, or separately. Next time, I'll talk about the other steps leading to a divorce or legal separation.