Ask The Lawyer – “Why does it take so long to get a divorce?”

By  | March 3, 2013 | Filed under: Ask The Lawyer, News
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Rebecca Green Thomason – Attorney at Law

People frequently ask, “Why does it take so long to get a divorce?”  There are several reasons for this.  First, the Alabama Legislature passed a law to make it harder to get divorce.  It states, “A court shall not enter a final judgment of divorce until after the expiration of 30 days from the filing of the summons and complaint.” The aim of the legislatures was to guarantee a cooling off period.  They believed that couples filed for divorce in the heat of an argument and when tempers cooled it was too late to reconcile.

Another reason that the divorce can take time is because the couple can’t agree on everything or even anything. If they can’t agree on all of the issues then the divorce is contested.  This means that one person files a divorce complaint.  The complaint is (served) delivered to the other person by certified mail or by a deputy.  After receiving the papers one has 30 days to answer the complaint and file a counter complaint.

Depending on the case and the lawyers involved there maybe depositions taken or interrogatives filed.  There may be hearings to determine temporary issues until the divorce can be tried.  The case has to be set for pre-trial. This is to give the husband and wife and their attorneys time to talk about a settlement.  If an agreement can’t be reached then the divorce is set for trial before the judge. The judge may require the couple to go through counseling, parent training, and mediation before setting a trial date.

A divorce trial may take an hour or several weeks depending on the issues. This means that it would be unusual to try more than five divorces in a week. There were 142 domestic relations filings from the beginning of this year through February 22nd in Lauderdale County. Another 74 were filed in Colbert County and 50 in Franklin County in the same time period.

I have people come to see me at their appointed time with papers in their hands.  They are crying and upset.  “I still love her. I don’t want a divorce.  I want you to stop it.  Stop the divorce!”  Part of my job is to give people bad news.   If your spouse wants a divorce you cannot stop it. You can slow down the divorce. You can make it hurt more. You can make it cost more. But the nature of divorce in Alabama is that a spouse who’s absolutely determined to divorce can make it happen even over his or her spouse’s objections.

Divorce causes pain. The couple is in pain and their children are in pain.  There is a raw, searing emotional content of nearly every issue during a divorce.  In all but the rarest of divorces, this emotional intensity  of changing feelings of love, regret, guilt, tenderness, euphoria, anger, betrayal, relief, depression, bitterness, abandonment, hatred, freedom, and fear pops up at nearly every turn.  This makes it difficult to focus on the legal issues that must be decided. This hurt stops the kind of rational thinking needed to move the divorcing spouses toward a mutually acceptable resolution.  During divorce, you will likely feel things, think things, say things, and do things that you would never feel, think, say, or do during any other time of your life.

During the time you are divorcing you must also adapt to the many other changes in your life that often flow from divorce.  At the same time that you’re dealing with all the mess of the divorce process, you must think about how you will get on with a new life for yourself and your children after the divorce. If you have children, you’ve probably already started thinking about child support, whether you’re going to be paying it or receiving it.  You will also need a parenting plan which will include visitation, residency, holidays, sports school activities and many other things.

There are many changes to be made even if there are no children.  You will have to establish credit in your own name.  You may change your name.  If so, you will have to change your name on all of your identification. You may have to make arrangements to transfer property or buy insurance in your name. You will need a new will. You will usually have to split your friends, or they may choose which side they are on.

You will need to think through your budget. If you’re like most people emerging from your divorce, you’ll realize that what you’re spending is greater than what your income. It’s painful, but you’ll probably have to make some changes in the way you live, at least for the next year or two. The sooner you realize what changes are in store, the less painful those changes will be.

Still Divorce is a slow and painful process.





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4 Responses to Ask The Lawyer – “Why does it take so long to get a divorce?”

  1. Joy Cunningham January 8, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    what if you both decide not to go through with it?

  2. fidel June 11, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    i have a freind in al says its gonna be a year now since she filed the court keeps pushing the date is there a lenght of time where the courts says a divorce final if the othere party contests it

  3. waseema October 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Its been 4years my friend going thru a divorce trying 2get out what can he do he had a larwer but he don’t want that larwer anymore coz everything is takeing soi long he even gave the house 2 the wife an kids but he cont understand what the long wait is

  4. jp September 1, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Simple lesson – NEVER GET MARRIED.

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