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common law marriage

At The Zwiebel Law Firm, we practice family law and often help couples who have decided not to legally marry but want to have many of the same benefits of married couples through common law marriage.

In Alabama, you are considered married by common law if you have been living together as a married couple. In order to be considered married by common law you need to represent to the outside world that you are husband and wife. An example of this would be taking each other’s name, giving your children a single family name, signing a lease agreement in the name of husband and wife, and even putting yourself on each other’s bank accounts as if you were actually married. Essentially, you need to act married and portray yourself as such in order to be considered married by common law.

Common Law Marriage Requirements

In order to be considered married under common law you need to be –

  • Living together as husband and wife
  • Share in marital duties and obligations
  • Over the age of 14
  • In mutual agreement that you are going to be married under common law

The benefits of being married under common law include the ability to inherit should one of you pass away. You also have benefits if one of you became sick.  For example, a married partner would be able to speak with a doctor etc., where someone who is not legal family would be unable to do so.

Common Law Marriage is Going Away

In Alabama, common law marriages will no longer be recognized starting in 2017. While this has been the law for some time, starting in 2017 there will be no more couples recognized under the common law statutes.  You need to file with the court now if you want to be recognized in the future.

How to Protect Yourself

You need to go to probate court and file documentation showing that you are in a common law marriage prior to January 1st, 2017.  At The Zwiebel Law Firm, we can help you to do so.  By ensuring that the documents are completed and filed correctly, we can ensure that your legal status is preserved.  Otherwise, you could wake up in February of 2017 without the legal protections and rights that you are entitled to currently.  Once this happens, your only option will be to go through the process of technically becoming married.

Schedule a Consultation and Get the Help You Need

We can provide you with more information about these changes when you schedule a consultation. Contact The Zwiebel Law Firm at 205-623-1001 or through our easy online contact page.


On March 7th, the Supreme Court of the United States rsame sex mother rightseversed the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court in the case of VL v EL. VL and EL are two women who, during the course of their long-term relationship, bore three children through donor insemination. In this case, VL, the non-biological mother was granted an adoption in Georgia. The couple later split, and VL sought visitation from EL. EL, now residing in Alabama, denied VL visitation on the grounds that the adoption was not valid in Alabama.

On September 18, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against visitation, stating that the adoption performed in Georgia in 2007 was considered void in Alabama. This judgment broke a long-standing precedent that judgments entered into in other states would remain valid. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution requires states to honor judgments made in other states. The case had formerly been heard in trial court and twice in the Court of Civil Appeals.

On November 16, 2015, VL asked the Supreme Court of the United States to consider this case, given that no other state had ever before refused to honor a same-sex adoption granted in another state. In December, the Supreme Court ordered that VL be granted temporary visitation rights and that the judgment of the Alabama Supreme Court be suspended.

On March 7th, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously that the Georgia adoption was legal and that VL bears full adoptive rights. This marks a major ruling and a victory for the rights of LGBT individuals and couples throughout the United States. This ruling protects the rights of same-sex parents, even after those parents relocate to a different state that may have different laws.

As families in the United States become more diverse, it is important that parents’ rights- whether same-sex or not- be protected by the law. If you believe your parental rights are being infringed upon, or you are being bullied out of your parental role, contact an experienced Alabama family law attorney. A parents’ rights are to be cherished and protected, not manipulated and sullied. Contact the Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC today online or at 205-623-1001 for a consultation.

Hidingmoney-163502_640 money in a divorce is not just wrong – it’s illegal. If you believe your spouse is hiding money in your Alabama divorce case, here are some tips you can follow to uncover the truth. In many cases, one spouse alone is responsible for managing the money and paying the bills. Often, the other spouse has very little idea of the total assets and debts. In a divorce, this spouse can be at a disadvantage financially. After all, it’s easy to hide something if no one knows it exists. That is why anyone considering divorce should take stock of all assets and debts immediately to help avoid the issue of hidden assets.

Step 1. Retrieve records, paperwork, and statements.

Retrieve your tax reports, bank statements, credit card statements, retirement statements, and loan statements for the last three years. If you or your spouse owns a business, get the business tax reports and financial filings as well. The IRS allows you to access prior tax returns easily. Often you can view and print bank statements, credit card statements, and loan statements online. If you cannot, simply call the institution and ask them to send you the statements. They may tell you they charge a small research fee, however if you plead your case, they sometimes will provide these statements free of charge.

Step 2. Analyze all statements thoroughly.

This is the tedious part! Grab a notebook, a highlighter, and a pen. Begin with any loan statements. Search for any unusual or suspicious withdrawals. If you find any, highlight them. Then, find the most recent statement and write down the balance. Next move on to your credit card statements and do the same. Finally, review your bank statements. Look for unusual cash withdrawals or large expenditures. Also keep an eye out for recurring charges that do not look familiar. If you are unsure about a charge, often a quick search on Google will help you identify the vendor. Highlight any unusual purchases or withdrawals, and again make note of your balances. Finally, review your tax returns. Unless your spouse is hiding money from the IRS as well, these should indicate income. If you are familiar with the business, you can analyze the tax returns. However, you may want to hire an accountant as these can be technical and difficult to understand.

Step 3. Hire a forensic accountant, if necessary.

A forensic accountant investigates accounts and financial records in order to determine if they are accurate or if they show evidence of deception. A forensic accountant is fairly expensive, and should be reserved for cases involving significant assets. In such cases, however, a forensic accountant can be invaluable! A forensic accountant can sniff out signs of fraud, such as overpaying creditors or creating fake debt. If your case involves a business or sizeable assets, a forensic accountant can ensure those assets are fairly valued and that you, therefore, receive what you deserve. A forensic accountant can also testify in court to these facts and, given their background, their testimony carries great weight.

After you have arranged and analyzed your financial records, an experienced Alabama divorce attorney can help you determine if you need a forensic accountant on your case. At the Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC, we will work diligently to ensure that you receive a fair divorce settlement. Contact us today at (205)623-1001. 


As an Alabamadocument-428334_640 family law attorney, I understand that money can be an issue for couples facing divorce. As the individuals prepare to go their separate ways, they may be even more cognizant of the need to save money. Divorce need not break the bank, but you also should ensure that you have adequate representation to protect your rights.

In general, an uncontested divorce is less expensive than a contested divorce. To be eligible for an uncontested divorce in Alabama:


  • You must have been an Alabama resident for at least 6 months if your spouse lives out of state.
  • You and your spouse must come to an agreement regarding the division of property and debt, custody of any children, and child or spousal support.
  • You and your spouse are NOT required to separate in order to file divorce. You may continue to reside together if you choose..

Sometimes, couples can work together and come to an agreement that is fair to both parties. In fact, it can be as simple as jotting details down on notebook paper. Once both parties are satisfied, either party can have an attorney draft the divorce documents.

In general, the attorney that composes the documents only represents the party that hired them. For example, if the husband hires an attorney to draft the uncontested divorce documents, that attorney represents the husband. In such a case, the wife could potentially proceed without representation. This, however, is incredibly risky. Even if both parties reach an agreement, each party should retain their own representation in the divorce. This ensures that the rights of each party are protected and that both individuals truly comprehend the agreement prior to proceeding.

I’ve seen that I can buy a divorce kit off the internet and do it myself for less money. Can’t I just do this?

Divorce involves nearly every aspect of your life. All of your property and debt will be at stake, as well as your children and their future. Even if you and your spouse can agree to everything, there are still things like court filings and deadlines that must be met in a timely manner. Remember, an Alabama family law attorney can represent you and make certain that your rights are protected.

My spouse and I cannot agree on everything- does this mean our divorce will be costly?

Sometimes, despite the best interests of both parties, you simply cannot find common ground with your spouse. Perhaps you can agree on most aspects of the divorce, but an issue or two have left you frustrated. Or, maybe you both genuinely want to work together but simply cannot seem to make ground. In these cases, one cost-effective solution is mediation. Mediators are trained, third-party providers who perform in a neutral capacity to help both partners come to a satisfactory arrangement.

Divorce need not be costly! To discuss your case with an experienced Alabama family law attorney, contact us online or by phone at (205) 623-1001.



road-995343_640Historically, Alabama courts have strongly favored awarding custody of children to the mother. More recently, however, family situations have changed and evolved, and many men have taken on the role of primary caretaker.

Now, family law judges try to promote joint custody plans, with the children spending roughly the same amount of time with each parent. The Alabama Joint Custody Statute indicates the intention of the state to support the rights of both parents to ongoing contact and childrearing. Further, numerous studies have shown that children do best when both parents play an active role in childrearing. In some cases, however, it may be more appropriate to award sole custody to either the mother or the father. A family law attorney can help you understand your rights as a parent, and guide you through this challenging process.


The court attempts to award joint custody whenever appropriate, but considers a number of factors, including:

  1. Whether or not the parents can reach an agreement regarding custody arrangements.
  2. If the parents are able to discuss the interests of the child amicably.
  3. The ability of the parents to support and nurture the child’s relationship with the other parent.
  4. Any abuse directed toward the child or other parent, either in the past or the potential for future abuse.
  5. If traveling from one household to another regularly is a practical option.

In determining custody, the judge also considers the safety of the child; the age and gender of the child; the ability and desire of each parent to provide for the child’s physical, social, moral, and educational needs; the age, health, and character of each parent; the willingness of each parent to adhere to agreements with regards to parenting; the child’s preference and relationship with each parent; the environment of the homes; any expert testimony; and the effects of the custody arrangement on the child. Your family law attorney can help you present yourself and your situation positively before the judge.

How can I present myself in a positive light?

  • Provide Stability – Judges love to see a stable environment. It is important to have a stable job and provide a regular, healthy routine for the child. That means providing regular, nutritious meals, getting the child to school on time, providing a set bedtime, maintaining regular dental and medical check-ups, and encouraging extra-curricular activities.
  • Bonding Activities – Instead of hiring a babysitter, arrange to spend the time you have with your child in a positive manner. Go to the zoo or a museum, read books together, go to the park, or join a baseball team.
  • Remain Calm – Custody disputes can be emotionally taxing, and you may hold anger or resentment towards the mother of your child. It is important, however, to maintain a calm, cool demeanor. You want to project that you truly want to promote positive and happiness in the environment.
  • Encourage Family Stability – Children thrive when they have relationships with both parents. Even if you believe the mother should not have custody, support your child’s relationship with her. Do not ever speak negatively about the other parent in front of your child.

Remember, the court wants the same thing you do – for your child to thrive in a healthy, happy environment. If you are struggling to gain custody of your child, contact us online or at (205) 623-1001.

Alimony or sphand-83079_640ousal support may be awarded during divorce proceedings when one spouse earns significantly more than the other spouse. A judge can order support to be provided during the divorce proceedings, for a limited time after the divorce and, in some circumstances, permanently. The court considers a number of factors to determine alimony, and must conclude that one spouse has a financial need and that the other one is capable of providing support. One key factor is the length of the marriage. If the marriage only lasted a short time, spousal support may not be awarded or, if necessary, is brief.

Before spousal support is awarded, property division must be complete. The court then considers the assets of each spouse and if any support is required. A number of factors may play a role in the court’s decision to award alimony, such as the age of each spouse, their health, their earning ability, the requirements of any dependent children, the previous role of the spouse as a caregiver or parent, and any contribution given to support the career of the other spouse. Finally, the court may take into account any behavior or choices that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage.

In Alabama, there are six different types of alimony that can be awarded:

Periodic alimony – Permanent alimony means that the alimony will last until either spouse dies, remarries, or lives with someone of the opposite sex. It is generally reserved for lengthy marriages in which one spouse was a homemaker or cared for the children while the other spouse worked. Periodic alimony refers to traditional alimony, paid biweekly or monthly. It is tax deductible for the spouse that pays the alimony and taxable for the spouse that receives alimony.

Lump sum alimony – When alimony is awarded at one time, as a large payment instead of ongoing payments, it is considered lump sum alimony.

Alimony pendent lite – Alimony pendent lite is awarded, when necessary, by a judge to help support a spouse during the divorce proceedings.

Rehabilitative alimony – Rehabilitative alimony is paid during a specific period of time to give a spouse the opportunity to seek education, get a job, and become self-sufficient.

Alimony in gross – Alimony in gross is alimony that is received as part of the property settlement and cannot be modified. It is not tax deductible and the spouse that receives the alimony does not have to pay taxes on it.

Alabama does not have a formula to determine alimony, and much discretion is given to the judge. Unless otherwise stated, the court can reconsider alimony periodically based on a significant change in circumstances, such as the loss of a job or a demotion. Alimony payments end if the dependent spouse either remarries or cohabitates with another.

If you have questions or concerns about alimony, contact us online at (205) 623-1001. We will answer your questions and guide you through your divorce.

Whether you have been in a troubled marriage or currently separated, 2016 can be the year you get to change your status.  With the upcoming elections, changes are in the air.  Individuals normally do not like change and it is difficult to embrace changes in your marital status.  However with the feel of change in the air, it could be a good time to take that first step forward to changing your personal status. Change has been happening all around us and we comtemplate more changes to come.  

In the previous year, The Supreme Court of the United States made it clear that all states have to recognize same-sex marriages giving civil rights and liberties to every individual. I have personally seen individuals who, for the first time, have had their marriages recognized in the state of Alabama.  It's been an exciting past year.  I have had clients that were in the need of a same-sex divorce and with the Supreme Court ruling were able to get that relief without leaving their home state of Alabama.  

With the changes in healthcare laws, I've had clients who were able to secure their own health care coverage which assisted them in finalizing their divorces.  Some individuals were separated from their spouses with pre-existing conditions that inhibited them from finalizing their divorce.  Once divorced they knew that their coverage would end and getting new coverage may exclude their conditions.  Now with changes in health care, they are free to enroll personally without the denial of their pre-existing conditions.  It has enabled them to be self-sufficient. 

Now with 2016 on the rise, individuals have contacted our firm that are in need of legal asistance to start a new year with new goals.  Divorce can be very challenging but with the right legal team, you can get solutions that are best for you.  In some ways it is easier to make personal changes while your environment is also changing.  2016 can be the year you reach your personal goals.  Let us assist you in any of your family law issues.  We have a dedicated team of attorneys and professionals waiting to help you. 

Call us at (205) 623-1001.

We have information on our website that may answer your questions.  Our blog covers a wide variety of legal topics. See

I read an interesting article pasted in this blog below.

When investing and saving for the future you should consider how that future will be changed in the event of a divorce.  Your investment goals may be much different following divorce than during your marriage.  Some spouses who have not worked outside the home will be given portions of the working spouse's retirement to "kick start" their own retirement.  However, this may not be enough.  The nonworking spouse may need to change their goals and focus on aggressive options for retirement.  They may need to hire a financial adviser that is different from their spouses adviser.  They may need to forecast what their future would look like in very different scenarios absent their working spouse's income.  When dividing assets during a divorce, it is likely in a long term marriage that the nonworking spouse will get a portion of the working spouse's retirement.  However even with this award, the nonworking spouse will need more income producing investments to safely secure their own retirement.  The nonworking spouse will not have the benefit of the working spouse's income in their future.  The home that was shared with the working spouse may not be an asset that the nonworking spouse can count on as a "paid for" asset in their retirement years.  Typically in a divorce the marital home is sold and the net proceeds are divided among the parties.  This eliminates the possibility for the nonworking spouse to contemplate a future without a house payment or rent payment in most cases.  The nonworking spouse may come into need for a new car as they will need reliable transportation post divorce.  Since in most cases a nonworking spouse will need to enter the workforce to make income for their financial needs.  The whole picture of their future may look very different once the divorce is finalized.  Assets that were going to be used in the retirement years while married may not exist post divorce.  Getting good sound financial advice is key. 

As lawyers we can get you the maximum benefit from your marriage during your divorce but that only starts the future.  Once those assets are divided, each spouse will need to consult with a financial adviser to best know how to make their portion benefit their new post divorce life.

Contact us today for your divorce needs (205) 623-1001.  We are here to guide you through the process.  We are here to answer your questions. Other information can be found at




For a candid look at what our attorneys have to say about the recent events click below: 

We recently we asked questions about social media in light of the recent Ashley Madison releases.  As addressed in our candid interview, we talked about the number two reasons, people seek divorce.  First and foremost is financial reasons but the second is infidelity.  Social media has made connecting with your friends, relatives and acquaintances easier.  However a very real "side effect" is that social media has also made it easier to connect with individuals on a romatic level which may lead to an affair.  Social media comes in all forms.  Some sites are very straight forward for the reasons that you are a member and some are not as easily defined.  With the recent release of Ashley Madison email lists, spouses are learning of affairs and ongoing infidelity.  Call our firm if you are on either side of this issue:  We can help you (205) 623-1001. More information can be found on our site


Other information can be found here:



Mississippi is the only state left to ban same-sex couples to adopt.  With the ever changing landscape of what family looks like there has been a case to challenge's Mississippi's ban on adoption for same-sex couples.  It is very difficult for me to believe that there would still be a ban in existence for ANY child to be adopted and brought into a loving home regardless of how that home is made up.  The U.S.. Supreme Court ruled over two months ago that same-sex couples were allowed to marry in ANY state.  The inequality challenge to Mississippi's ban will most likely prevail and do away with this prejudicial law.  Interestingly enough Mississippi has the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising children within its borders.  New York has been allowing same-sex couples to adopt since 1996. 

In Alabama, Probate Court is the proper place to file an adoption petition.  As of late, there have been several probate judges "called out" in the media for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  These judges have been sworn to uphold the law but even still, the environment in a few select counties is not as friendly as it should be. 

As an attorney who practices family law and sees children in foster care neglected and in need of love, I feel that every child that is wanted by anyone who will provide that love and affection should be able to adopt.  Children must come first and the biases of the prospective adoptive parents needs to be put aside.  There are safeguards in place to ensure that children are being adopted for the right reasons.  These couples seeking children have a real desire to provide a loving home that will nurture the child into adulthood.  They are willing to place their lives on a different track and add new members to their family in a positive way.  No matter what the makeup of their family is, if they are willing to jump through every hoop to adopt a child in need of care, laws like the Mississippi ban are due to be struck down.

At my firm I routinely file adoption cases and those are the most rewarding cases I do in my line of work.  Adoption is a very structured case based on statutory laws that are completely based on the best interest of the child.  Winning an adoption case whether it be for brand new parents or for step parent adoptions is a very satisfying experience for a family law lawyer.  Currently there are tax credits that are awarded in the same year as the adoption is finalized.  These will help you recoup the legal costs of an adoption.  Call us today for help in adding new additions to your family through adoption.  We are always here to answer your questions (205) 623-1001.  Our website can offer more information as well.


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