What to Expect in Your Family Law Case
If you and your spouse can agree on all the matters to be decided in your divorce, such as the division of marital property, child custody and visitation, and the payment of child support and alimony, then you may be able to draft a Marital Settlement Agreement and file for an uncontested divorce. However, if you and your spouse disagree on any of the issues, which is more often the case, then you should expect the divorce process to involve a period of litigation and a courtroom hearing. The lawyers at Smith & McGhee have a long history of defending clients’ rights and promoting their interests in Alabama divorce and child custody matters. Here’s what you can expect in your family law case, and how our Dothan family law attorneys can help.
Anatomy of divorce in Alabama
The Residency Requirement – In order to file for divorce in Alabama, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the county in which you are filing for at least six months.
Grounds – In Alabama, you can file for a no-fault divorce, or the divorce may be based on any number of fault-based statutory grounds, such as adultery, abandonment or physical abuse. Most divorces are no-fault divorces, although there may be reasons to file a fault-based divorce where grounds exist. Your lawyer can help advise you on the proper grounds for filing.
The Complaint – A document known as a complaint is filled out and filed with the court and served on the other spouse. Your attorney can prepare the paperwork and handle the filing and serving requirements as well.
Temporary Orders – One of the first things the court does is issue a series of temporary orders. These orders are meant to preserve the status quo which exists between the spouses until all matters are decided in the divorce. Temporary orders will tell the spouses not to make any major purchases or liquidate their property, not to move away with the kids, or do other things which would impact the divorce proceeding. Temporary orders are standard, but if you have specific concerns, you can request a specific temporary order of the judge through your attorney.
Discovery – The period before trial is known as discovery, because each spouse is given the opportunity to “discover” information the other spouse has which is needed for trial. For instance, the court may require very extensive and detailed financial disclosures so that both spouses know the complete financial picture, including each person’s assets and debts, and assets and debts they share in common. Items such as tax returns and bank and credit card statements may need to be shared as part of this disclosure.
Other aspects of discovery may include taking depositions (sworn statements) of the other spouse or other interested parties, requesting the production of documents, and so forth.
Agreement or Trial – With the information obtained during discovery, the spouses may try to work out the issues between themselves with the help of their attorneys in negotiations or mediation. Mediation may even be ordered by the court.
If the parties cannot reach agreement, the case proceeds to trial. At trial, witnesses testify, evidence is presented, and arguments are made to the family court judge by the parties’ attorneys. At the close of the trial, the judge will grant the divorce and issue final orders regarding the distribution of property, child custody and support, alimony, and other issues raised at trial. Given the broad discretion vested in the court, it is essential to be represented by experienced trial counsel who will prepare and present a strong, persuasive case to the judge that promotes your interests.
Alabama Divorce Do’s and Don’ts
Do… gather all records requested by your attorney
Do… provide full financial disclosure as required by the court
Do… be completely honest with your attorney. Your relationship with your lawyer is 100% confidential, and holding back important information can be disastrous to your case.
Don’t… hide assets from the other spouse, the court, or your attorney
Don’t… move and take the kids without talking to your attorney first
Don’t… try to represent yourself in your divorce. You have too much at stake to risk making a mistake which could affect and your children for your years to come.
Call Smith & McGhee in Dothan for Help in Your Divorce from Experienced Alabama Family Law Attorneys
To discuss your Alabama divorce or other family law matter, call Smith & McGhee in Dothan at 334-702-1744 for advice and representation from compassionate, dedicated and experienced Alabama family law attorneys.