Each state handles child custody differently. Knowing the difference between the types of child custody and learning about Alabama’s standards, rules, and laws can help you navigate a difficult situation.
If you and your partner have recently separated, consider consulting a lawyer with expertise in Alabama’s child custody cases. At LaPlante, Merritt, Faulkner, Wilson & Clay, LLC., we have extensive experience in all aspects of family law, including child custody.
Types of Custody
Parents or guardians can have legal or physical custody, or both, of their children. Legal custody allows a guardian to make important decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and religious upbringing; while physical custody refers to where the child physically lives.
These two terms make up the first tier of custody. The second tier breaks these terms down further into “sole” and “joint” custody. When the court grants a parent sole custody, it means they have sole decision-making authority regarding their child. With joint legal custody, both parents have that authority.
Similarly, sole physical custody means the child lives with only one parent, while joint physical custody means the child lives with each parent for specific periods, ranging from days, weeks, or months.
The Best Interests of the Child
In Alabama, judges follow “the best interests of the child” standard to determine who is awarded custody. Some factors the court takes into consideration include:
- Agreement (or lack thereof) between parents
- The child’s sex and age
- The child’s needs and both parents’ ability to meet them
- The parents’ home environment
- The parents’ age, physical and mental health, and stability
- The nature of the child’s relationship with their parents
- The impact any changes to the current custody agreement will have on the child
- The child’s preference, in the event the court deems the child is old and mature enough
In most child custody cases, Alabama favors joint legal custody because it affords the child continuing and regular contact with both parents while enabling the parents to share in the responsibility of raising the child.
Even if both parents don’t approve or consent to joint legal custody, the court must consider it. If joint custody is deemed inappropriate, the court develops a custody plan in the child’s best interest.
With physical custody, an essential point of consideration for the judge is how far apart the parents live from one another. If they live far apart, it could negatively affect the child’s education and wellbeing, and the judge may decide that joint physical custody is not beneficial. Working with an experienced family law lawyer can help ensure you receive the custody plan that’s best for your family.
Unique Custody Rules and Legal Help
Alabama law has unique custody rules around abandonment and domestic violence that may also play a role in who is awarded custody over the child. To understand these laws and provisions and how they may affect child custody in your case, it’s vital to seek legal advice and help.
The experienced team of attorneys at LaPlante, Merritt, Faulkner, Wilson & Clay, LLC are well-versed in family law in Alabama, including child custody and divorce, and can help you find the best options for you and your children.