Legal separation in Alabama

Legal separation can be a tedious process. It’s no different in Alabama either. However, depending on your understanding of the legal separation process and all that it entails, the experience can be made remarkably smooth. In this piece, we will discuss everything related to legal separation in Alabama, including troubleshooting any doubts that you are likely to have in the whole process.

We will be covering key aspects such as trial separation, the difference with divorce, legal separation agreement how-to, and so much more. Let’s dive right into it without further ado.

What is a legal separation?

Legal separation is a type of separation that is considered a significantly safer alternative to divorce.

A legal separation has many merits going for it. For example, in a legal separation, the spouses are physically separated but not really divorced. A valid legal separation gives both spouses the unmarried status.

If you and your partner also wish to live as unmarried for some time without going through a full-blown divorce, which is much more permanent and sort of set in stone, you can go for a legal separation with the help of a court order.

The court order concerning the legal separation will still determine critical obligations such as financial details, asset separation, and the custody of children, among a few other things. But regardless of these proceedings, the couple will not be effectively terminating their marriage.

Needless to mention, a legal separation is a great way to not end a marriage while staying unmarried. Let’s learn more about how legal separation is different from divorce in Alabama.

You cannot get remarried during a legal separation.

How is legal separation different from divorce in Alabama?

If both spouses are not sure about a divorce or ending their marriage, they can opt for a legal separation as a “safer” option.

Legal separation differs from divorce in many ways. Though there are certainly some similarities between the two, it will do you good to understand the finer details of them both.

Most attorneys will explain the difference between a legal separation and a divorce in Alabama in the following ways:

Spouses can still be considered unmarried if they are legally separated but their marriage will not be terminated. In some ways, it can be a sort of limbo or a transitory phase before you figure out the best decision for your marital life.

You will stay “legally married” to your spouse during a legal separation. A legal separation will entail negotiations that are generally considered vital in the case of a divorce, such as child custody, child visitation, child support, division of property and assets, spousal support, and financial obligations.

Bonus tip: If you do wish to follow up with a divorce, later on, note that a legal separation will not cut down on the steps required or aid in the processing requirements for it in any way in Alabama.

We generally recommend people to go through the finer details of a policy (such as a governmental benefit like Social Security or health insurance) before they apply for a legal separation (and not a divorce) for the sole reason that they are about to receive certain benefits.

How long do you have to live in Alabama to apply for a legal separation?

6 months.

Either the plaintiff or the defendant needs to have resided in Alabama for at least six months to be able to go for a legal separation. Note that this applies to at least one party, and not both. So, even if one party has resided for six months in Alabama, they can file for a legal separation (or their spouse can) even if the other party has resided in Alabama for less than six months.

What is trial separation?

An agreement where a couple mutually agrees to spend time away from each other.

Trial separations are informal agreements between two parties in a marriage. Trial separation agreements can be seen as a mutual decision to live apart without involving the court or any lawyers. This is mainly done to take some time off from your partner and determine your feelings and emotions at the end of the trial separation.

Trial agreements tend to be 2-8 months long. However, most psychology experts generally seem to have a consensus on a trial separation of no more than 3-6 months. Anything more than 6 months and you run the risk of finding it significantly more difficult to get back together.

What is a legal separation agreement in Alabama?

A legal separation agreement in Alabama effectively means time-off without breaking a marriage, by the order of a court.

When a couple decides to take some time off, they can either file for a legal separation or go for a mutually agreed-upon trial separation. We already explained the latter in the previous section. The former is what we have been discussing in general throughout this piece.

A legal separation agreement or simply a legal separation is a type of separation that involves a court and additionally, lawyers or attorneys (unlike trial separation). These agreements stipulate the duration, obligations, and other requirements to both the parties and allow them to continue their lives away from each other in an unmarried bearing without having to end their marriage.

The cost of legal separation in Alabama

Filing for a legal separation through an attorney can cost you anywhere from $700 to $1300.

You will find many cheaper options as well. Most attorneys will charge around the $800 mark, whereas some online services can charge remarkably lower than that.

The claims of these online services have to be vetted carefully. Make sure you read ample testimonials and reviews, as well as that you have multiple conversations with the team behind the service to better understand their proficiency and availability for your case.

Once you have settled on your preferred provider, you can move ahead with discussing the finer details such as child custody, financial obligations, and so on. Needless to say, it makes more sense to work it all out prior to talking with an attorney, among yourselves, and tweak your decisions when you receive new information from the attorney. This allows you to have sufficient trust in each other first.

Process of filing for legal separation in Alabama

A request filed by at least one of the partners meeting the eligibility criteria followed by a court order is all you need.

Note that even if one spouse wishes to separate then any of the spouses can file for a court order. Here is the process of filing for legal separation in Alabama:

  1. One spouse will need to file for court intervention. This application is called a petition.
  2. The petition is only available if at least one spouse (regardless of whether it’s the petitioner or the defendant) meets the 6-month residency requirement.
  3. After finalizing all considerations (marital assets and debt division, child custody and support, and spousal support), the court will relay its legal separation order.

And that’s all.

Do I need an attorney to file for legal separation in Alabama?

Technically, you don’t. But you are recommended to.

Although technically you could draft your own agreement to present to the court, you are recommended to have an attorney draft one for you.

  • Firstly, the terms of the separation must include the division of marital assets, property, and debt including bank accounts, home, retirement accounts, capital assets, and so on.
  • Second, they must also include carefully written and explicitly detailed provisions for child custody, child visitation, and child support.
  • Lastly, the agreement must clarify what type of spousal support is expected during the legal separation.

Now, you might think that drafting all this is fairly easy and all it needs is a detailed conversation. However, wording your agreement carefully and wording it carefully and legally are two completely different things.

Slip-ups and loopholes can become outrageous problems later on once an imperfect agreement is finalized by the court. Sure, you can apply for edits and revisions but most likely you won’t have the time for it later.

That is precisely why we recommend getting your agreement drafted by an attorney. Your spouse can then hire an independent attorney to go over the agreement from their end. This will be the perfect way to file for a legal separation in Alabama.

How long will it take to finalize a legal separation in Alabama?

There is no definite time period for a legal separation in Alabama.

Depending on the complexity of the case and how long it takes for the court to perfectly divide financial support, spousal obligations, and child support-related considerations, legal separation in Alabama can take anywhere from one month to several months to be in effect.

The simpler your case is and the more you agree on the majority of the clauses in the agreement, the faster the process will happen.

It is not rare to find legal separation cases that get finalized in mere weeks as compared to months in Alabama. Hopefully, you will be in this lucky lot!