The filing expenses for filing for divorce in Alabama vary county by county, but rarely exceed $200. The least expensive divorces are those in which only this fee is paid. Couples can avoid additional expenses by drafting a mutually acceptable settlement agreement before filing a divorce, covering such potential areas of dispute as:
• Shared debts
• Dividing shared property
• Child custody arrangements
• Visitation rights
• Health insurance expenses for children
• Alimony payments
When a petition is filed and the other spouse is officially presented with a copy of the complaint, there may be an additional fee if the services of a sheriff are required to serve the papers.
Some couples may decide that they can work together in good faith to resolve their differences with external advice before having to appear in court. In such cases, both spouses may agree to share the expense of hiring a divorce attorney specializing in mediation. Alternately, an agreement may be arranged in court-supervised meetings with free legal advice from mediators appointed by the court.
If no agreement has been reached with the help of a mediation lawyer, this attorney is not allowed to represent either party in court. Finding private legal counsel will in many cases commit you to a considerable expense. A lawyer who is merely filing paperwork may offer a flight fee, but if any amount of preparation for trial is involved you will probably be charged on an hourly basis. These fees can add up quickly, so it is important to obtain a detailed, written estimate of the expenses you will be liable for before agreeing to work with any attorney.
When a judge must make a ruling concerning alimony payments requested by a spouse, he or she will take the following into consideration:
• The total value of each spouse’s assets, as well as that of their families and any retirement plans
• Any marital misconduct, such as adultery or abuse
• The length of the marriage
These payments can be set on a permanent or temporary basis. Some judges may order payments to be made for a fixed amount of time designed to let the receiving spouse receive the education or training necessary to becomes financially self-sustaining.
Child support payments are issued in accordance with official state guidelines. A couple may jointly present a petition for an amount less than called for by the guidelines provided there is a reasonable explanation. A parent who is ordered to make excessive child support payments may appeal the amount granted on the basis of financial inequality, inability to pay or other considerations.
Some couples may merely be filing for a legal separation, meaning that they will live separately and resolve all the issues covered by a divorce settlement without being formally divorced. This may be undertaken for religious reasons or to maintain joint health insurance. The filing fees are less expensive for this procedure.