11th Oct 2014

Child Custody

Custody of minor children will be determined at the discretion of the court. The court will use the following criteria in making its decision:

The agreement or lack of agreement of the parents on joint custody.

The past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly.

The ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent.

Any history of or potential for child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping.

The court may also consider other factors, including:

Best interest and welfare of the children

Fault of the parties

Character and conduct of each of the parties

Age and sex of the children

Past care and custody of the children

Economic conditions of the parents

Preference of the children

Agreement of the parents

The court favors placing a child with a natural parent, but will award custody to other parties, such as grandparents, if it is in the best interest of the children.

Types of Custody

In Alabama, there are four types of custody that the court may consider:

Sole Custody
Sole Custody is an arrangement whereby only one parent has legal and physical custody of a child. The parent with custody has sole rights and responsibilities to make major decisions concerning the child, including, but not limited to, the education of the child, health care, and religious training. The parent also has sole physical custody and the other parent has rights of visitation except as otherwise provided by the court.

Joint Custody
Joint custody in a divorce case has two components: joint legal custody and physical custody. Both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including, but not limited to, the education of the child, health care, and religious training. The court may designate one parent to have sole power to make certain decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.

Physical custody is shared by the parents in a way that assures the child frequent and substantial contact with each parent. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean physical custody of equal durations of time.

Joint Legal and Physically Shared Custody
Joint legal and physically shared custody shares the same joint legal decision making process as in Joint Custody, but physical custody is divided approximately equal between the parents. When joint physical custody is divided equally between two parents, it helps when the parents live in close proximity as this is often easier on the child’s social and emotional development.

Split Custody
Split Custody is a custody arrangement where there are multiple children and which awards sole custody of one child to one parent and sole custody of another child to the other parent.

Each of the types of custody has components that must be considered and should be discussed with an attorney.

Child Visitation

The parent who does not have the children living with him or her (the non-custodial parent) has the right to visit his / her children. Visitation rights can be set by a Judge, or can be by agreement. The agreement can be for reasonable times and at reasonable places, or it can set specific times and places.

Child Support

Child Support is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines adopted by the Alabama Supreme Court, unless the court finds adequate grounds for a deviation from the Child Support Guidelines. Child support is computed by combining the gross income from both parents, determining from the Guidelines the applicable amount of child support for the number of children of the marriage based on the combined income, adjusting the amount for work-related child care expenses and health insurance premiums, and then assigning a portion of that support amount to the non-custodial parent based on his / her share of the combined gross income.

No matter what type of custody, visitation or child support issue your are having, you should discuss your options with a qualified attorney to protect your rights.

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