John F. Hitchcock

                      UNCONTESTED DIVORCE


If your marriage has broken down to the point that you believe it to be irretrievable or irreconcilable, it would be wise for you to seriously consider the option of seeking an uncontested divorce and to avoid costly, protracted litigation in the family Courts where there are seldom any winners-only different degrees of losers! As a general rule, neither party will be completely satisfied with the decisions made by the trial Judge who has great latitude and discretion when deciding the division of your property, the placement of your children and other areas of concern such as an award of alimony or spousal support.

The option to resolve these differences without judicial intervention allows you and your spouse to decide where your children will live, what visitation rights will be enjoyed, and how your property will be divided. For the most part, child support is determined by a statutory formula and is based on the incomes of both parties; however, a reasonable child support amount may be reached by agreement in certain circumstances-in particular in those cases in which joint physical custody is agreed to. In the event that both parents are making equal contributions for the support of their children, there may be times when child support is not required to be paid by either parent through the judicial system. The Alabama Legislature’s main concern is that the children’s needs are met and that both parents contribute their fair share towards those ends - to this, there is no exception!

An uncontested divorce allows you and your spouse to decide how your property is to be divided-which is much more favorable to both of you than to allow a Judge to decide what is an equitable and fair distribution of your marital assets. While it might be a struggle for the two of you to decide on the best distribution of your property, it is well worth your efforts to do so rather than have a Judge make this decision for you. It is much better if you can reach a settlement that each of you can live with than it is to have someone else (who is totally disinterested in your wants or wishes) to decide a distribution plan in which you will have absolutely no say in the outcome of his or her decision. The Judge’s decision will be final and enforceable!

                                      “Joint Custody”

In Alabama, there are two types of "Joint Custody" - joint physical custody and joint legal custody. In 1996, the Alabama Legislature passed what is known as the “Joint Custody” statute, which states in part, “it is the policy of this state to assure the minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. Joint custody does not mean people physical custody.” Reduced to simple terms, joint legal custody refers to and concerns the decision-making process as to the child’s medical, educational, religious, moral and other decisions traditionally made by both parents acting in concert during marriage. Every parent will have the right to access the child’s medical and educational records and no parent will be restricted from active involvement in the lives of their children simply because their marriage did not work out!

With respect to all custody arrangements, the Alabama Court system has recently shown a great propensity to grant joint physical custody rather than awarding sole or primary custody to one parent. While this is a controversial position, it is the trend of the Courts and it is to be expected in most situations. In all uncontested divorce cases, joint legal custody is awarded.