The State of Alabama recognizes and allows legal separation. We have a statute that defines legal separation and lays out how it works, what the rules are for how support gets determined, and how property gets divided in the event of a divorce later. You can read the statute here on Divorceinfo.com.
Any terms that you and your spouse set in the legal separation (unless you agree or the court orders otherwise) will carry over into any subsequent divorce, with two exceptions: both support (spousal support and child support) and issues involving child custody and visitation remain within the jurisdiction of the court and can be changed later (even after a divorce) if the court decides that there has been a material change in circumstances that makes the change warranted.
A legal separation can be dissolved at any time by the simple filing of a joint motion to dismiss on the grounds that you and your spouse have reconciled. The judge will sign it, probably with a big smile on his or her face.
There are three situations where a legal separation might make sense. The first is some religious conviction on the part of either of you that makes it untenable for you actually to get an absolute divorce. Legal Separation might be a way to get some space between you even while you stay legally married.
The second reason is if one of you is dependent on the other for some financial benefit like medical insurance or a retirement benefit that you would lose if you divorced. You may need to stay legally married just so you remain eligible for that benefit.
The third reason is if one of you is anxious for separation and the other just will not agree to a divorce. You might work out all the details of property division and support in the context of a legal separation and be able to keep your arrangement cooperative rather than go to court and spend money you don’t have on people like me. Alabama’s statute on legal separation allows the two of you to provide for a property division and to agree that it will govern in the event of a divorce later.
My charge at Alabama Family Law Center for an uncontested legal separation is 300 dollars if you do not have minor children, 350 dollars if you do. There’s also a filing fee of $268.37. In each case, this fee assumes that it takes an hour or less of my time to get the papers signed and ready to file. If it takes more time than that, it’s okay, I just ask you to pay me for the extra time.