“No good marriage has ever ended in divorce,” said comedian Louis C.K.
This is true. But some unions end on worse terms than others. Often, these cases dissolve into divorce litigation, or what is sometimes referred to as “contested divorce.”
Birmingham Divorce Lawyer Steven Eversole of Eversole Law Firm LLC has successfully worked on many cases in which couples were not only in disagreement, but could hardly communicate.
When two people cannot reach agreements on key points of dissolving their marriage, sometimes there is no choice but to allow courts to intervene and have the final word. Understand that when that happens, those involved may lose a fair amount of control over the outcome. This is why we often continue to work toward mutual solutions to each issue up until the date of trial.
Some of the common issues of contention include:
- Division of Assets
- Division of Debts
- Child Custody
- Child Visitation
- Child Support
We understand there are some issues upon which our clients simply cannot yield. We commit in those instances to never backing down on those matters, though we do recognize concessions will sometimes need to be made elsewhere.
For example, let's say you want physical custody of the children. That could mean you will need to give up the house or some other key asset. But let's say you don't want to give up that asset either (the kids need somewhere to live/ should stay in their school district, etc.), or your spouse is unwilling to agree to that arrangement prior to trial. Assuming your argument is reasonable (and we will advise you of our professional opinion), we will back you.
Our team provides continuous support services to our clients and their children throughout the litigation process. We recognize this is a time of intense turmoil for everyone involved, and it's our goal to make the transition as smooth as possible.
While we always try to first negotiate, we will not hesitate to fight aggressively for our clients' interests in court. Our team is skilled in presenting strong, compelling arguments founded on solid legal principles. In that scenario, we would focus on why such an arrangement is in the best interest of the children (not just you).
Process of Alabama Contested Divorce
A contested divorce can be long, complex and demanding. Although the couple may agree on the decision to divorce, they find it difficult if not impossible to agree on terms.
Not all contested divorces need to be bitter or involve back-and-forth vitriol (in fact, this often works against you). However, it is a much more extensive and detailed process than what you can expect in an uncontested case.
- Step 1: Information gathering. This is the information you will need prior to filing for divorce. This will include things like your name and address, birth date, list of assets and debts and details on the reason for divorce. You could claim a no-fault divorce, but there could be reason to file divorce on fault-based grounds (i.e., adultery, addiction, imprisonment, etc.), which may give you a strategic advantage in the proceedings.
- Step 2: Filing your complaint with the court. Your attorney can do this for you once you've provided the necessary information. The complaint sets forth the plaintiff's request for divorce, as well as a request for custody of children, child support, division of marital property and, if warranted, alimony (temporary or permanent). It also indicates the grounds for divorce, whether no-fault or fault-based.
- Step 3: The complaint and any discovery filed with the complaint will be served to the other spouse to notify them of the proceedings. (Discovery is information/evidence you will use to present your case at trial.) This may be done either through a private process server or by certified mail or, in some extreme cases, by publishing it in a local newspaper.
- Step 4: Pre-trial orders. A judge will issue a pre-trial order that will instruct the parties not to dispose of marital assets pending the proceedings.
- Step 5: Non-filing spouse (defendant) will have between 30 and 45 days to respond to that complaint (30 days if no discovery, 45 days if there was discovery).
- Step 6: Judge may order a number of temporary hearings (Pendente lite hearings) to provide instructions for the continued payment of debts, use of certain assets, temporary alimony, parenting time and child support.
- Step 7: Each side conducts discovery. This involves gathering up all relevant information, requesting production of certain information/documents from the other side, questioning witnesses at deposition and securing all potential expert witnesses. The testimony and evidence gathered here may be used at trial.
- Step 8: If those involved are parents of young children, they may be required to participate in a parenting class.
- Step 9: The judge sets the case for trial.
- Step 10: Some courts will require mandatory medication if the parties still can't work out their differences by this time. The court may appoint the mediator, and cost for this service will be apportioned by the court.
- Step 11: If a settlement is not reached in mediation, the case goes to trial. The judge will weigh evidence in the form of testimony, supporting documents, photos and recordings. Expert witnesses may be called to provide asset or business valuations, so the judge can divide properly equitably.
- Step 12: The judge issues a ruling. This is called a judgment of divorce. The divorce will be granted, and whatever aspects of the dissolution that were not decided prior to trial will be decided by the judge. This includes division of assets, allocation of debts, child custody and parenting time, child support and spousal support.
Timeline for Divorce in Alabama
Because a contested divorce is more complex and requires more intensive involvement from all parties, it is going to take longer.
Most can expect a contested divorce can take anywhere from a year to 18 months. Some may take a little less, some a little longer. It will all depend on the individual circumstances of your case and how many issues can be resolved by you and your spouse prior to trial.