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Divorce Law in Alabama: Why Local Family Law Attorneys Matter

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Did you know that Alabama has one of the highest divorce rates in the United States?

As a multi-generational firm of family law lawyers serving the broader South Alabama region since 1907, we certainly did. We also know, through decades of professional experience, that ending a marriage legally is a complex and emotionally charged process, demanding careful consideration of state-specific laws and regulations.

Divorce is never one-size-fits-all. Each couple has unique circumstances that, as skilled divorce lawyers, we know how to align with the labyrinthine nuances of Alabama divorce law. At the Powell law office in Gulf Shores, we use our local knowledge, contacts, and legal expertise to help you as our client move on with the next chapter of your life.

Understanding Divorce Law in Alabama

Grounds for Divorce

Alabama stands out among states by recognizing no-fault and fault-based divorce grounds. A no-fault divorce can be filed on grounds of incompatibility or an irretrievable breakdown of domestic relations within the marriage. Alternatively, fault-based grounds, such as adultery, cruelty, substance abuse, or imprisonment, are also acknowledged.

Waiting Period

A mandatory waiting period exists for couples pursuing a no-fault divorce in Alabama. You must reside separately from your spouse for a minimum of 180 days before initiating the filing process. This waiting period is a critical aspect of divorce law in the state, significantly influencing the timing of divorce proceedings.

Child Custody Law and Support

Child custody and child support decisions revolve around the child’s best interests. Alabama courts consider numerous factors, including the child’s age, each parent’s ability to provide for the child, and the child’s relationship with each parent.

Property Division

Alabama adheres to the principle of equitable distribution when dividing marital assets. This means that marital property is divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. The court considers various factors, and having a locally experienced divorce attorney near you who knows how Alabama courts typically approach property division is invaluable.

Spousal Support

Determining spousal support (alimony) in Alabama is based on fairly intricate calculations. Factors such as the duration of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and each person’s financial needs are all considered. A family law attorney well-acquainted with Alabama’s divorce laws can help you navigate this process and advocate for your best interests.

Residency Requirement

To file for divorce in Alabama, one spouse must have established residency in the state for at least six months before initiating the process. Fulfilling this requirement is vital, and a local attorney can assist in ensuring your case meets this and other state-specific prerequisites.

Common Law Marriages in Alabama: Divorce Laws Post-2016

Common law marriage, or “informal marriage,” can create unique legal situations regarding divorce. Alabama used to recognize common law marriage, but significant changes in the law occurred in 2016. If you entered into a common law marriage in Alabama before the change in the law, it’s essential to understand the current divorce laws that apply to your situation.

The Shift in Alabama’s Common Law Marriage Recognition

Before 2016, Alabama recognized common law marriages if specific criteria were met. These included:

1. Mutual consent and agreement to be married.

2. Publicly presenting yourselves as a married couple.

3. Living together as a married couple.

However, in 2016, Alabama ceased recognizing new common-law marriages. This means that couples who began living together after January 1, 2017, cannot establish a common-law marriage in the state.

Divorcing a Pre-2017 Common Law Marriage

If you entered into a common law marriage in Alabama before January 1, 2017, and now wish to dissolve the marriage, the divorce process will be subject to the same legal requirements as formal marriages. Here are the key considerations:

Filing for Divorce

To initiate a divorce, you must file a formal petition in an Alabama court, just as couples in traditional marriages would.


While formal marriage licenses may not be available for common-law marriages, any documentation or evidence of your common-law marriage (such as joint accounts, shared property, or testimonies from witnesses) can be valuable during the divorce proceedings.

Child Custody and Child Support

If you have children from your common law marriage, child custody law and support issues will be resolved based on the child’s best interests, just as in traditional marriages.

Property Division

Alabama’s equitable distribution principle applies to common-law marriages as well. Marital property will be divided fairly, considering various factors such as the duration of the relationship and each spouse’s contributions.

Spousal Support

Alimony may be awarded if necessary, based on factors like the length of the common law marriage and each spouse’s financial situation.

Legal Representation

It’s advisable to seek legal services from a family law attorney experienced in common-law marriage cases. They can guide you through the specific legal requirements and help protect your rights and interests during the divorce process.

Why Hire a Family Law Attorney in Gulf Shores?

Hiring a locally based family law attorney if you’re in Gulf Shores or South Alabama is essential for several reasons:

Knowledge of State Laws

Local attorneys understand Alabama’s divorce laws in-depth and remain current with any recent changes or developments.

Familiarity with Local Courts

They bring experience working with the local courts, judges, and legal professionals, which may give you an advantage in negotiations and hearings.

Personalized Guidance

Local divorce lawyers offer personalized guidance that considers the specific challenges and opportunities your geographical location presents.

The Next Step: Protect Your Rights with Powell Law

Facing divorce in Alabama can be an overwhelming experience, but you don’t have to go through it alone. At The Powell Law Firm, our experienced attorneys understand the intricacies of Alabama’s divorce law and are dedicated to safeguarding your rights and interests. Here’s how our legal knowledge and experience can benefit you:

Understanding Your Rights

You may have concerns about hiring an attorney, but with Powell Law on your side, you can rest assured that we’ll explain your rights clearly and ensure they are protected at every step of your divorce journey.

Avoiding a Costly Court Dispute

We’ll do everything possible to help you settle your divorce without needing a costly and protracted family court case. We’re skilled negotiators who strive to reach fair and amicable agreements, saving you time and money.

Ensuring Fair Negotiation

Navigating divorce negotiations on your own can be daunting. Our team will ensure you receive what the law rightfully grants you and spare you the stress of handling negotiations independently.

Balanced Representation

In divorce proceedings, having legal representation is essential for both parties. If your soon-to-be-ex-spouse has an attorney while you don’t, it can create an uneven playing field. Powell Law levels the playing field by being the fair representation you deserve.

Protection from Uncooperative Spouses

Dealing directly with an uncooperative ex-spouse or one with a history of domestic violence can be emotionally draining and stressful. Our attorneys serve as a shield, protecting you from the anxiety and worry associated with such situations.

Resolving Disagreements

Even couples with the best intentions can encounter difficulties when settling a divorce. Our attorneys are skilled at negotiating and simplifying the divorce process, striving for resolutions that work in your best interest.

Saving Time and Money

Many divorces can be efficiently settled outside the courtroom, saving you time, money, and unnecessary stress. Powell Law’s commitment to facilitating smooth settlements allows you to move forward with your life more swiftly.

Don’t Delay—Get the Help You Need

Postponing the decision to seek legal services can make your attorney’s job more challenging in the long term. Waiting can also have negative consequences for your case. Don’t let your situation deteriorate further. Take action now to secure a South Alabama divorce attorney who will protect your rights, interests, and property.

At The Powell Law Firm, we offer a free consultation to discuss your family law case. This initial conversation could make all the difference, saving you unnecessary stress, preserving your valuable time, and protecting your financial interests. Don’t rely on hearsay or secondhand information; trust a divorce lawyer with in-depth knowledge of the laws that apply to your unique situation. Call our law office or message us at The Powell Law Firm to find out how we can help.

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