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How much does a divorce cost in Alabama?

The cost of divorce in Alabama is a concern for many who go through the process. We explain the factors that impact divorce costs in this guide.

evident Editorial Team
November 6, 2023
Huntsville Alabama

Getting divorced in Alabama can be a difficult and stressful experience. One extra source of stress for many is a common question: "How much is a divorce in Alabama?" 

It can be hard to accurately predict divorce costs in advance, but there is generally a set of common factors that influence divorce costs in Alabama. Knowing what these factors are can remove some of the uncertainty from the divorce process and reduce some of the stress involved. 

So, what affects divorce costs in Alabama? In this article, we will:

  • Share data on the average cost of divorce in Alabama
  • Share the key factors that impact the cost of divorce in Alabama and explain how they influence costs
  • Share lower-cost resources that may be useful for people who are concerned about the cost of hiring a divorce attorney 

Let’s begin by looking at data on the average cost of divorce in the state. 

Key Takeaways

Average Cost of Divorce in Alabama

The average cost of a divorce in Alabama is around $12,500 for cases without children and approximately $18,800 for divorces involving children, according to USA Today

Actual divorce costs depend on the individuals involved and the context of their divorce, of course, but these numbers help give a frame of reference. 

Note that these two averages show the impact certain factors can have on divorce costs, specifically the difference between divorces with and without children.

What affects the cost of divorce in Alabama?

So, how much is a divorce in Alabama? The answer depends on certain common factors that may or may not influence a given divorce process.

Those factors include:

  • Filing fees and other court costs
  • Attorney rates
  • How complicated your divorce is
  • How contentious your divorce is

The first two factors are concrete costs, where we can again offer average numbers. The second two factors, though, are more fuzzier and more thematic.

Both sets of factors are crucial, though, so let’s take a look at each in turn.

How much is it to file for divorce in Alabama?

The filing fee for divorce in Alabama can vary depending on what county you file in, but typically costs around $200 to $300. 

Here are a few examples of Alabama divorce filing fees by county:

  • Jefferson County – the filing fee is $199 with a $10 service fee to have the Sheriff’s office serve the divorce papers on your spouse.
  • Madison County – the filing fee is $324 or $344 depending on whether you have the Sheriff's office serve papers on your spouse.  

There may be other court costs or filing fees to pay if you need to file additional paperwork with the court. Those court fees may also vary by county, so be sure to check the fee schedule for your local courthouse.

Fee waivers in Alabama

If you cannot afford the Alabama divorce filing fee, you may be able to get the filing fees waived by submitting an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship

You will have to demonstrate your financial need by providing information about government benefits you receive or your monthly income and expenses. The court will review this evidence and decide whether to grant a fee waiver. 

How much does a divorce lawyer cost in Alabama?

One of the biggest expenses in many divorces is attorneys’ fees. To understand how much an Alabama divorce attorney costs, it is helpful to understand how they bill for their services. 

Let’s take a look at the two most common billing methods for Alabama divorce lawyers.

Divorce Lawyer Fee Structures

The two billing methods that Alabama family law attorneys most commonly use are hourly rates and flat fees. 

  • Hourly Rates: The divorce attorney bills by the hour for the time they spend working on a case. Divorce attorneys who charge hourly rates often require a retainer fee upfront, which is similar to a down payment on their services. 
  • Flat Fees: The divorce attorney sets a fixed amount upfront for their assistance with the case. 
pros and cons of different fee structures

There are pros and cons to each billing method, and people may prefer one approach or the other. But note that the attorney may also have a preference, and the details of your divorce could align better with one method over the other. 

For example, a flat fee typically fits better with an uncontested divorce, whereas hourly fees usually work better for contested divorces.

Average Hourly Rates For Alabama Divorce Lawyers

The average hourly rate of an Alabama family law attorney is approximately $259 per hour. (Divorce lawyers are a subcategory of family law lawyers). 

Factors such as the lawyer's experience level and location can affect actual hourly rates, though. For instance, divorce attorneys tend to cost more in bigger cities like Huntsville or Birmingham compared to other parts of Alabama.

Hourly Rate vs Hours Worked

Note that the amount of time a divorce lawyer spends working on a case can have an even bigger impact on total divorce costs than the hourly rate, though. 

For example, compare a divorce lawyer who charges $275 per hour and spends ten hours on a case with a divorce lawyer who charges $200 per hour but spends 50 hours on a more complex or contentious case (10 hours x $275 for $2,750 in attorney fees vs. 50 hours x $200 for $10,000).  

This is why the thematic factors affecting divorce costs, which we’ll turn to next, are so important. 

How Complicated Your Alabama Divorce Is

Generally speaking, divorces get more expensive as they get more complicated. 

A key distinction is between uncontested and contested divorces, with uncontested divorces usually being less expensive than contested divorces. 

But there is a broad range of possibilities even among contested divorces, so we will also explore the specific factors that make a divorce more complex below.

How much does an uncontested divorce cost in Alabama?

Uncontested divorces in Alabama (in which the parties can agree on all divorce-related issues such as alimony, property division, and child custody) are typically faster, simpler, and less expensive than contested divorces. 

The cost of uncontested divorce in Alabama can often be limited to little more than court costs and filing fees, at least if the parties are able to reach an agreement without hiring lawyers. In such a scenario, the cost of uncontested divorce in Alabama can range from $200 to $1,000. 

How much does a contested divorce cost in Alabama?

The cost of a contested divorce in Alabama can be much higher and much more unpredictable. 

Contested divorces in Alabama, which involve unresolved issues and require a greater level of court oversight, can vary greatly depending on the number of unresolved issues and how fiercely they are contested. 

For instance, do the parties disagree slightly about how to share joint custody, or is it a full-blown custody battle? The difference can mean thousands of dollars in added divorce costs, depending on the situation. 

What makes a divorce more complicated?

maze, labyrinth, complexity

Factors that make an Alabama divorce more complex include:

  • Minor children
  • Disputes over alimony
  • Substantial marital assets
  • Complicated marital assets

Each of these factors can lead to a more complicated divorce process and increase the overall cost of divorce in Alabama. 

For instance, as noted above, there is a big difference in the average cost of divorce in Alabama depending on whether minor children are involved or not.

Likewise, a divorce will be much more complicated if the spouses have substantial or complicated marital property to divide, such as assets that require valuation or appraisals. 

Also, each of these issues can be a potential source of disagreement, which leads to our next factor affecting Alabama divorce costs.

How Contentious Your Alabama Divorce Is

As mentioned, uncontested divorces in Alabama are generally simpler and cheaper than contested ones, but not all couples can reach agreement on all issues. That said, it is still helpful to adopt a collaborative approach when possible.

One way to reduce conflict (and costs) is through divorce mediation or other collaborative approaches. These alternatives to contentious court fights can lower the need for expensive lawyers’ fees and shorten the timeline of a divorce.

Although it may be challenging to set aside personal differences, focusing on the benefits of a cooperative approach can lead to a less contentious and less expensive divorce process, ultimately benefiting both parties as well as any children involved. 

Lower-Cost Options for Divorce in Alabama

saving money, stacks of coins

For people with concerns about the cost of divorce in Alabama, there are some resources that can help reduce legal expenses. 

For people who need legal help with certain aspects of their divorce but may not be able to afford a divorce attorney for the entire scope of their case, limited-scope representation is an option. With limited-scope representation, a divorce attorney can help you with specific aspects of your divorce, such as attending mediation with you, but without representing you for the full scope of your case. 

Additionally, Legal Aid organizations offer free or low-cost legal services for eligible individuals (typically based on income). For instance, Legal Services Alabama helps eligible individuals with uncontested divorces or when there is domestic violence involved.  

For help with Alabama divorce filing fees, remember that a fee waiver may be available if you can demonstrate financial hardship. 

FAQs About the Cost of Divorce in Alabama

How much does divorce cost in Alabama if both parties agree?

If both parties agree on all divorce-related issues, then they should be able to file for an uncontested divorce in Alabama. This means a faster, simpler, and less expensive process. 

The cost of uncontested divorce in Alabama can be limited to the filing fees and court costs if the divorcing couple is able to agree on all issues without hiring lawyers.

If so, the cost of uncontested divorce in Alabama can be less than $1,000, including the divorce filing fee.

How long does a divorce take in Alabama?

The timeline for an Alabama divorce depends on multiple factors, including the complexity of the case, the level of cooperation between the parties, and the court's schedule.

Uncontested divorces in Alabama can be resolved relatively quickly. Typically, an uncontested divorce in the state can be finalized within a few months, including the mandatory 30-day divorce waiting period in Alabama.

Meanwhile, contested divorces can take much longer, often up to a year or more. The timetable for a contested divorce in Alabama depends on those factors mentioned above (i.e. the complexity of the issues, the court's caseload, and the level of cooperation between the parties).

As with managing costs, more collaborative approaches can often help spouses reach a faster resolution to their Alabama divorce.

The Final Word on the Cost of Divorce in Alabama

So, how much does a divorce cost in Alabama? Here’s what to remember.

The average cost of divorce in Alabama is approximately $12,500 for cases without children and $18,800 for divorces involving children. 

Actual divorce costs vary greatly but are influenced by a common set of factors, including: 

  • Court costs and filing fees
  • Attorneys' rates
  • The complexity of the divorce
  • The contentiousness of the divorce 

An experienced Alabama divorce lawyer can be a tremendous resource. But if you cannot afford the legal fees of a divorce attorney, there are lower-cost alternatives available, such as limited-scope representation and Legal Aid organizations.

If you have questions about your particular circumstances, consider speaking with a divorce lawyer today. Be sure to ask these questions at the initial consultation to help you evaluate whether the attorney is a good fit for your needs.