Legal Divorce Terms To Know

Divorcing from your spouse is not as simple as saying that the marriage is done and you both want to go your separate ways. There is a formal legal process that must be followed so that you and your spouse are no longer legally connected – often with many legal divorce terms (or “legalese”) in the mix. An experienced divorce attorney can help you through the process and ensure that the right steps and actions are taken so that there are no hiccups in your case. While your attorney is on your side and explaining what is happening every step of the way, you might want to have a general understanding of some of the terminology associated with divorce proceedings so that you can best prepare for the road ahead. Knowing some terminology early on can also help you figure out which questions your want to ask.

    • Civil Procedure: Divorce proceedings are a part of civil court. In order for proceedings to go smoothly, both in divorce and other civil manners, there are certain rules that must be followed by all parties to be compliant with the law. Alabama has its own Rules of Civil Procedure. Included in these rules are the time frames in which documents must be served, the amount of notice that must be given to another party, filed document requirements, and many other rules that might apply in a particular case.
    • Residency Requirement: In order to file for a divorce in Alabama, there are residency requirements that must be met. Both parties are not required to be a resident of Alabama. If the defendant is not a resident, the filing spouse, the plaintiff, must have been a resident of the state of Alabama before the divorce can be filed.
    • Jurisdiction: Every case needs to be filed in the proper jurisdiction. In a divorce proceeding, there are different options that might be appropriate depending on the circumstances. A divorce can be filed:
        • In the county where the defendant to the divorce resides.
        • The county where the couple seeking the divorce lived at the time of their separation.
        • In the county where the plaintiff resides if the defendant is not a resident in the state of Alabama.
    • Legal Grounds for Divorce: A divorce requires an underlying legal reason. Alabama recognizes the following as legal grounds for divorce:
        • Abandonment of marriage voluntarily one year before filing the case.
        • The court determining that the spouses are incompatible to live together any further.
        • The court determining there was a breakdown of the marriage that is irretrievable.
        • One spouse being incurably incapacitated after entering into marriage.
        • A spouse committing adultery.
        • Imprisonment of a spouse for at least two years of a seven year or greater sentence.
        • A spouse committing a crime against nature.
        • Addiction to drugs, alcohol, or other impairing substances.
        • Confinement in a mental hospital for five successive years, if incurably insane at the time of filing.
        • A wife being pregnant without the husband’s knowledge at the time of marriage.
        • Violence against a spouse.
        • A wife living separate of her husband for at least two years, with no support given from the husband.
    • Property Division: One of the biggest elements of a divorce is determining what happens to marital property. Alabama is an equitable distribution state. This means that whatever is deemed to be marital property will be split equitably among the spouses. It is important to note that equitable does not mean equal. The court will determine what a “fair” distribution of property will be. Spouses can come to their own agreement that is then approved by the court.

Next Steps

If you are considering filing for divorce and do not know where to start, the MSN’s divorce attorneys are here to help set you up for success in the next chapter of your life. We’ll represent you throughout divorce proceedings and work toward your best result possible under the circumstances.


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