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What Is a “No-Fault” Divorce in Alabama?

No Fault Divorce in Alabama - Smith & McGhee

When it comes to filing for a divorce, there are grounds, or reasons, as to why the divorce is occurring. Generally speaking, one of the spouses is found to be at fault, or responsible for the divorce. Typical grounds for divorce include the following:

  • Abandonment/desertion – A spouse leave the household and has no intentions or justification for returning.
  • Adultery – A spouse is sexually unfaithful to the other spouse. The other spouse must show proof that the infidelity happened.
  • Criminal conviction and imprisonment – If a spouse is convicted and imprisoned while married, the other spouse can use this as a ground for divorce. The filing spouse must show proof of the conviction.
  • Cruelty – This includes physical and emotional suffering inflicted by one spouse on the other, making the marriage impossible to remain in. There cannot be just one act of cruelty—it must be recurring and sustained over time. Cruel behaviors include public humiliation, raging violent behavior, and physical attacks.
  • Mental illness – If a spouse is found to either permanently mentally ill, this can be a ground for divorce. As with other grounds, the filing spouse must show proof that their spouse is indeed suffering from a permanent mental illness to the point that the marriage is unbearable.

There are other grounds for divorce such as sexual incompatibility (e.g., impotency); withholding money or refusing to financially support a spouse; substance abuse issues; infertility; a wife is impregnated by another man; a sexually transmitted disease (STD) was transmitted; and homosexuality.

Alabama is technically not a no-fault state, meaning that a spouse who wants to exit his or her marriage must find proof of how the other spouse was at fault for the marriage failing. When a fault divorce occurs, the spouse who is not found at fault usually will have a better settlement and outcome than the spouse who was found at fault. Fault divorces may be necessary for reasons such as contentious child custody battles or deep disagreements on the division of assets and/or property.

What is a No-Fault Divorce

No-fault divorces were first ratified in California in 1970. The reason no-fault divorces came to prominence was because many couples started to create fictitious reasons for why they wanted a divorce. In a court of law, this means that people were committing perjury, even if neither spouse had legal grounds for the dissolution of their marriage.

Another reason for the adoption of no-fault divorces: in court, neither spouse must feel compelled to humiliate or degrade their partner to get the best outcome for his or her case. This allows both spouses to keep their respective reputations and maintain a certain amount of privacy. They also do not have to gather evidence against the other spouse. If children are involved, they will be protected from the defamation wars that can break out during a divorce.

Since 1970, 17 states have adopted no-fault divorces. The grounds are typically called “irreconcilable differences” or an “irretrievable (or irremediable) breakdown of the marriage.” Also, if a couple chooses to live apart for a certain period of time (also known as a legal separation) can also be grounds for a no-fault divorce.

Even though this method of divorce is popular, it is not without its detractors and critics. The main criticism is that it allows people to exit a marriage far too easily, putting an onerous burden on children and the spouse who has primary custody. This departure of one spouse from the family unit can cause significant disruptions which may be prevented if the couple undergoes marriage counseling before deciding that the marriage cannot be saved.

In Alabama, you can file for a no-fault divorce, with the grounds being either “incompatibility of temperament” or “irretrievable breakdown.” Only one spouse needs to testify as proof of the alleged incompatibility or breakdown of the marriage. Once a no-fault divorce begins, it cannot be stopped. It can be delayed if the spouse contests it. It can become costly and acrimonious, but contesting a no-fault divorce cannot halt the proceedings.

Contact the Skilled and Experienced Alabama Family Law Attorneys at Smith & McGhee

If you are going through a divorce and need a family law attorney in Alabama, you can trust the experienced Dothan divorce lawyers of Smith & McGhee. To learn more about how we can help you get a no-fault divorce in Alabama, contact us today for a consultation at 334-702-1744.