Alabama Court Records
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What are Alabama Divorce Records?
Alabama divorce records are documents containing the full details of the divorce process between formerly married couples. As of 2018, there were about 9.8 divorces out of every 1000 women who were 15 years of age and above.
In Alabama, the grounds for undergoing a divorce process is categorized into two; the fault and no-fault ground. With the no-fault ground being the most popular of the two.
What this infers is that the party involved can file for either a no-fault divorce or a fault-based divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the assumption is that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, there are irreconcilable differences, or that the parties are completely incompatible.
The aggrieved party can as well file for a divorce on the grounds of a separation that has lasted for about two years. According to Ala. Code § 20-2-1 (2019), other legal fault-based grounds that can warrant a divorce include:
- Imprisonment for over two years, with a sentence of at least seven years
- Reckless sexual behavior
- Serial drug use or drunkenness
- Abandonment for up to a year
- Impotence or inability since the duration of the marriage
- Domestic violence
- The wife happened to be pregnant as at the time of marriage without husband's prior knowledge
- Confinement in a psychiatric ward for at least five years owing to incurable insanity
Generally, the no-fault filing is usually preferred over the fault-based filing. This is because the processes of the latter usually require some form of proof or evidence and can result in a longer, more expensive, and more complex divorce process.
There are basically two types of divorce filings obtainable in Alabama, which are:
An uncontested divorce is one where both couple agree on the need for a divorce and on the settlement terms as well before the divorce complaint is filed. There's usually no need for a trial in an uncontested divorce.
From the point the divorce complaint is filed, Alabama law prescribes a mandatory 30 days waiting time. It is only after this that the judge can grant the divorce.
On average though, from the time of filing for a divorce complaint to the time when the Alabama judge issues the final decree of divorce, an uncontested divorce can take as little as two months or as long as six months to be finalized. Although, these statistics can vary slightly depending on a number of issues.
A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree on an aspect of the divorce process or on the terms of settlement before filing the divorce complaint. When this happens to be the case, further steps will have to be carried out to complete and go through with the divorce process.
Most contested cases end up being settled by some form of a civil trial. Also, their divorce processes are usually very expensive and take time to conclude. As with many contested divorces, contested divorces in Alabama can take as long as several months or even years to finalize.
In keeping to the .Alabama Code - Section 30-2-1, contested and uncontested divorces are to be finalized with the appropriate circuit court, and the divorce records are to be maintained by the court and the Vital Records Division Of The Alabama Department OF Public Health.
Are Divorce Records Public in Alabama?
Pursuant to the Code of Alabama §36-12-40, divorce records are unrestricted and accessible to the general public. This means that anyone with sufficient information to search for a divorce record can do so.
If the wrong details are inputted when requesting for a particular record, the anticipated record will not be issued. This is most applicable when requesting for divorce certificates. A requester may end up receiving a "Certificate of Failure to Find" if the imputed details match no divorce record.
What are the Types of Divorce Records Available in Alabama?
The types of divorce records obtainable in Alabama are divorce certificates, divorce decrees, and divorce case files.
A divorce certificate is a document issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health stating that a divorce was granted to two parties. It contains the personal information of the parties to the divorce including their names, addresses, social security numbers, and race. It also states when and where the divorce took place. Anyone can obtain a divorce certificate from the Vital Records Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health.
A divorce decree on the other hand is a legally binding document that shows the court's final order in terminating a marriage. It has more information than the divorce certificate including assets division, alimony, child support, and other rights and responsibilities of the parties.
Divorce case files are all the court files and documents used in the divorce proceedings. These include the pleadings, motions, summons, and every other document filed in the course of the divorce proceedings. The Office of the Clerk of the court where the divorce was finalized keeps the divorce decree and the divorce case files.
How Do I Get Divorce Records in Alabama?
The procedure involved in obtaining a divorce record in Alabama is largely dependent on the type of divorce record sought. Any member of the public can obtain a divorce certificate in three ways:
- By mail
The Vital Records Office of the Alabama Department of Public Health keeps divorce certificates of divorces that occurred in the state from 1950 to date. For divorce certificates before this date, go to the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where the divorce was finalized.
Divorce certificates can be obtained from the Vital Records Office by filling the Vital Records Request Application Form. The first certified copy of an Alabama divorce certificate costs $15, while each additional copy costs $6. The acceptable forms of payments are checks and money orders, which must be payable to the State Board of Health.
In a situation where a requester provides details that did not return any result, the Vital Records Office will issue a "Certificate of Failure to Find". In addition to the required fee, requesters are expected to provide a copy of a valid means of identification.
To obtain a divorce certificate in person, walk into any county health department in Alabama with a completed application form, copy of valid ID, and the applicable fee. The certificate can be issued the same day the request is made.
If it's a mail-in request, send the completed application form, applicable fee, and a copy of a valid ID to:
Alabama Vital Records
Alabama Department of Public Health
P.O. Box 5625
Montgomery, AL 36103-5625
Divorce decrees or divorce case files are obtainable at the Clerk Office of the court where the divorce took place. The requester can send a written request or make the request in person. A certified copy of the divorce decree costs $0.50 per page.
While divorce and marriage records may be searched through government sources and organizations, the availability of these documents cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these entities are not government-sponsored therefore record availability may vary further.
Also note that marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information the records contain, and are often sealed. Hence, bearing in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.
Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Alabama?
Alabama divorce records can be obtained by anyone with sufficient information to search for the record at the appropriate government agency or court. This is because divorce records are public records.
Are Alabama Divorce Records available online?
The Vital Records Office website serves as a central portal through which all information concerning the retrieval of divorce certificates can be gotten. It has an online form that can be used to request a copy of a divorce certificate.
However, it's noteworthy that this form cannot be submitted online. It has to be downloaded, completed, and submitted in person to any county health department, or to the Vital Records Office by mail.
Highly populous counties such as Jefferson still depend on the Alabama Vital Records online portal for its divorce certificate application. Mobile County has an online case search system. But this system does not contain a database of divorce records that were finalized in the county.
How Do I Seal My Divorce Records in Alabama?
By Alabama law, divorce records are public records. This means that any member of the public can access divorce records. However, pursuant to Alabama Code - Section 12-15-103, a party can move a motion in court, requesting the court to seal the divorce records. The judge has complete discretion in deciding to grant such a request.
Upon such a request, the court would only seal the divorce records after conducting a hearing. The party seeking to seal the divorce record must also show sound and compelling evidence why the divorce records should be sealed.
The court can only seal a record which contains information that:
- is scandalous and defaming.
- can be regarded as a trade secret.
- relates to a matter of national security.
- could cause harassment, exploitation, physical intrusion, or any harm to the parties.
- could harm a party not connected to the divorce proceedings.