How Prison Impacts Divorce in Alabama

Divorce looks different for just about every couple. We understand no circumstance is the same, and there are different pasts, presents, and futures to consider in each relationship. Many clients think a spouse in prison will make the process a lot easier, and the state of Alabama actually recognizes imprisonment as grounds for divorce. However, there are specific parameters to be met before imprisonment can be considered for an at-fault divorce filing.

At-fault divorce filings

Alabama allows individuals to file for an “at-fault divorce.” This type of divorce specifically places responsibility on one party for the separation. In this case, the divorce process can become more of a criminal proceeding where the filing party carries burden of proof of fault while the party accused of being at-fault can respond to the allegations and defend themselves.

This puts a lot of pressure and risk onto you if you decide to pursue an at-fault divorce. Thankfully, Alabama is a “no-fault” divorce state which means you don’t have to prove fault in order to file for divorce.

Imprisonment as grounds for divorce

A spouse going to prison isn’t automatically going to impact the divorce proceedings. In fact, most prison sentences are too short to have a major impact on a divorce. State law requires a spouse to be in prison for at least two years AND a sentence totalling at least seven years in order to be grounds for divorce.

Because the law is so specific, filing for imprisonment as grounds for divorce in an “at-fault” case will be much easier. Your evidence has already been laid out by the courts during your spouse’s criminal trial. Therefore, imprisonment is one of the “safer” at-fault divorce filings in Alabama.

Filing for divorce when your spouse is in prison

Once you’ve established whether or not your spouse’s imprisonment impacts your divorce, you’ll have to start the process the same as any other divorce. Your spouse will need to be served divorce papers which can be a little easier in these situations, largely because you already know exactly where your spouse is.

Alabama allows you to file the divorce papers yourself which can be done either by going to visit your spouse in person, or by sending them in the mail. The mailing process is also easier, because you can have a prison employee serve the papers as a third-party who can verify your spouse has received the papers. If your spouse is willing to sign an “Acceptance and Waiver of Service,” you won’t have to go through the process of serving the official papers to start the timeline for your separation.

Have the right lawyer by your side

The best way to handle any divorce is to get an experienced lawyer to walk you through the process. If your spouse is in prison, the right lawyer will help you understand how it impacts your case. Contact Attorney John M. Totten and start your new life today.

John M. Totten