David and Alma were married in Texas but moved to Alabama shortly after the ceremony. Four years later, the couple wasn’t sure they wanted to remain married. They were not sure about divorcing either. Their home state of Texas did not allow legal separation. As David and Alma were now Alabama residents, they asked their attorney if Alabama would recognize legal separation.
Two Ways to Dissolve a Marriage
By Alabama law, a married couple may end their marriage through annulment or divorce. When an annulment is granted, it’s as if the marriage never existed. With a divorce, the parties have to sort out issues like property division, alimony, child support, and child support before a judge grants their divorce.
There’s a third way of dealing with a troubled marriage.
Pressing Pause with a Legal Separation
Alabama law does recognize legal separation. The Code of Alabama sets out the reasons a court may grant a legal separation:
- Jurisdictional requirements have been met;
- The marriage is irretrievably broken, the spouses are incompatible, or one or both of the parties want to live apart;
- If appropriate, the court has addressed child custody and child support issues.
Probably the most important thing to remember is that legal separation does not dissolve the marriage. The parties are still married.
What Happens Next?
Once the judge has approved the separation, each party’s income and retirement benefits become their separate property. Also, either person may sell real estate without the consent of the other person.
At some point, the legally-separated pair may want to modify their situation. However, according to Alabama law, the terms of their separation “can be modified or dissolved only by written consent of both parties and ratification by the court…” In other words, one or both of them will have to ask the court for any modifications or dissolution of their legal separation situation.
Divorce is not totally off the table, either. Either party may file a petition for divorce. The settlement agreement reached in the legal separation can be used in the divorce if both parties agree.
Is Legal Separation the Right Move for You?
Talk to experienced Alabama attorney Bruce Adams. He knows how to handle his clients’ legal questions and concerns. Please contact Bruce at 256-237-3339 to set up an appointment or use our convenient Contact Form. Our office is located in Anniston, Alabama, but we assist clients in surrounding Calhoun, Cleburne, Etowah, and St. Clair Counties.