Because Alabama recognizes legal separation, most people looking at divorce in cites like Tuscaloosa, Bessemer, Huntsville and Mobile do not always have to file for divorce, at least not immediately. As a Birmingham divorce lawyer, I know that a certain percentage of people considering a divorce action will also have thought about separation as an alternative. Legal separation, which can also be referred to as "judicial separation," "separate maintenance" or "divorce a mensa et thoro" (which translates roughly into "divorce from bed-and-board"), is one way that marital partners can legally formalize what is a de facto separation while at the same time staying legally married.
Folks all around Alabama choose legal separation for a wide variety of reasons. However, the most frequent explanation is because the one or both spouses believe that the marriage may still have a chance of being saved. Occasionally, legal separation may be chosen because of one or both of the parties have a moral or religious objection to divorce.
For the state of Alabama to recognize a legal separation, both parties must enter a decree of legal separation assuming all of the following requirements are satisfied:
1. The court determines that the jurisdictional requirements for the dissolution of a marriage have been met
2. 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
3. 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 the above suggests, while legal separation does not necessarily lead to a divorce, it can leave the door open to reconciliation, in which case the parties typically do not need to do anything more since they are still married in the eyes of the law. 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.
A qualified family law and divorce lawyer can help individuals navigate through the complexities of legal separation as well as full-blown divorce actions, which can be of great help during what is usually a difficult and emotional time for most people.