What You Need to Know About Serving Divorce Papers in Alabama
Alabama requires a spouse filing for divorce to notify their partner of the divorce. Here’s all you need to know about serving divorce papers in Alabama.
Alabama law requires the filing spouse to petition for divorce with the appropriate circuit court to initiate the divorce process. The spouse must serve a copy of the divorce papers to the defendant through a private process server, law enforcement officer, certified U.S. mail, or publication in cases where the plaintiff cannot locate the defendant. A server must be at least 18 years old and cannot be a party in the divorce case.
Divorce Requirements in Alabama
Alabama law requires the filing spouse to have been a resident of Alabama for at least six months before filing for divorce if the defendant spouse lives out of state. Spouses can file a no-fault divorce without blaming one spouse for the dissolution. Alabama law allows no-fault divorces when there is an irretrievable breakdown or when the spouses are incompatible.
Fault-based reasons for divorce in Alabama include:
- Violent behavior
- Crime against nature
- A spouse abandoned the other for a year before the divorce filing
- A spouse is in prison for two years with a sentence of seven years or longer
- A spouse is “incurably insane” and has been in a mental hospital for five successive years
- The wife is pregnant without the husband’s knowledge and by another person
- The wife lived in Alabama without support from the husband for two years before the divorce filing
Since many fault-based grounds are outdated, most spouses file a no-fault divorce.
Alabama Service of Process Laws
Spouses filing for divorce in Alabama must file the divorce paperwork in a circuit court. The filing spouse must petition for divorce in the circuit court of the defendant’s country or the circuit court of the county in which the couple lived when they split. If the defendant lives out of state, the filing spouse must petition for divorce in their Alabama county.
The divorce process varies based on whether the spouses agree on all divorce-related issues. An uncontested divorce is usually faster and less expensive compared to contested divorces. Divorce mediation is an option for disagreeing couples to resolve the issues outside of court and file an uncontested divorce after the resolution.
The filing spouse must serve the defendant with a copy of the divorce papers after filing them in court. Alabama requires spouses to serve the defendant with the summons and complaint within 120 days of filing the divorce papers. The filing spouse may not deliver the divorce papers directly. A server at least 18 years old and not a party in the divorce must serve the documents on behalf of the spouse.
Alabama law allows the following methods for service of process:
- Hiring a private process server
- Requesting a law enforcement officer to serve the papers for a fee
- Requesting the court clerk to deliver the papers by certified U.S. mail with a requested return receipt
Alabama law requires the defendant to file an answer within 30 days of receiving a summons and complaint for all of the above methods. A spouse who sends the papers by certified U.S. mail must file an Affidavit of Certified Mailing of Process and Complaint immediately upon mailing them.
If the filing spouse cannot locate the defendant, they may request permission from the court to serve the defendant by publication. The court clerk will ensure a newspaper of general circulation in the country publishes the notice in the county of the divorce filing. The publication must appear in a newspaper of an adjoining county if there is no eligible newspaper in the county of the divorce filing. The defendant must file an answer within 30 days of the last publication unless the publication specified a different time limit. Alabama requires the notice to appear in the newspaper weekly for four successive weeks.
FAQs About Serving Divorce Papers in Alabama
Can I waive the service of process requirement in Alabama?
The filing spouse may circumvent the service requirement by obtaining the defendant’s signature in an acknowledgment or waiver of service. The defendant confirms they received the divorce papers when signing the waiver.
How long does it take for judges to sign off on divorce in Alabama?
Alabama judges have a mandatory 30-day waiting period before finalizing the divorce. The “cooling-off period” allows the spouses to change their minds and ensure they are making the correct decision.