Step 2: Notify your spouse
Divorce is actually a lawsuit between you and your spouse, so, in order to satisfy legal requirements, you must properly notify your spouse that legal action is being taken against them. In a divorce proceeding, this is called Service of Process and involves delivering copies of the Complaint for Divorce and Summons along with supporting documents to your spouse in a timely manner. Under Alabama law, you must complete Service of Process within
30 days of filing your complaint. You may fulfill this legal requirement in one of the following ways:
- In person—Alabama allows anyone who is 18 years of age or older and is not a party to the lawsuit to serve the divorce papers in person. In most cases, the process server is a sheriff or a professional, bonded process server. Once the papers have been delivered to the respondent’s home or person, the process server must endorse the Service of Process form and file it with the Clerk of Court.
- By mail—If your spouse does not accept the delivery of divorce papers, you may complete Service of Process by sending the papers via certified mail. You must file the return receipt with the clerk to complete this process.
- By publication—If you are unable to locate your spouse, you may ask the court to serve notice by publication. If the court approves, then you may post notice of the divorce in a local newspaper. The notice must be published at least once a week for four consecutive weeks.
Once Service of Process has been completed, your spouse will have 30 days to respond to the complaint or lose certain legal rights under Alabama law.
If your spouse does not respond to the Complaint for Divorce, then the judge may assume that the respondent is waiving their right to be heard by the court. In this case, the court will likely grant the plaintiff most or all they are seeking in the Complaint for Divorce.
If your spouse does not wish to contest the Complaint for Divorce, they may file an Answer with the court that waives certain evidence requirements like testimony in open court. This obviates the need for a trial and allows parties to submit evidence in written form. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse only need to file a marital settlement agreement stipulating the details of property division, alimony and child custody.
If your spouse files an Answer that refutes details in the complaint, then the judge will order you and your spouse to trial. Before the trial, you and your spouse’s attorney may engage in evidence requests, witness interviews, and negotiations. This may be a lengthy, involved process that takes an enormous toll on you personally and financially.