Child Custody in Alabama
Simply put, there is nothing more important than protecting children. When contemplating divorce or a change in child custody in Alabama, there are two important concepts to understand: custody and placement. Custody refers to the rights of a parent to make decisions for and exercise authority over a child. Custody empowers one to decide, for example, where a child goes to school or church, or how the child is medically treated.
Placement, on the other hand, refers to where the child will live. Placement can be divided into primary placement, held by the person with whom the child will normally reside, and secondary placement, known as visitation.
In an Alabama divorce or custody modification proceeding, there is no jury. Custody and placement will be decided by a judge.
Legal Standard for Custody Decisions in Alabama
Alabama Legal Standard for Custody in a Divorce
For an initial custody determination, as in a divorce, the judge will decide the issue based on the "best interests" of the child. This is a very broad concept, which leaves great discretion in the hands of the judge. In determining best interests, the judge must consider several factors, including the age and sex of the child, the respective home environments of the parties, and, in some cases, the child's preference. Misconduct can also be considered, such as adultery or abusive behavior. If you suspect that child abuse has taken place, please don't hesitate to contact the proper authorities. More information can be found at the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the Children's Advocacy Center.
Modifying a Previous Custody Order in Alabama
For a parent attempting to modify a previous custody order, the judge will change the arrangement only if there has been a material change in circumstances.
Non-Parent Against Parent
For a non-parent attempting to obtain custody against a parent, the non-parent must demonstrate that the parent is "unfit." This is a difficult burden to meet, and generally requires clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unable or unwilling to care and provide for the child.
Alabama Custody Lawyers
We feature a team of family law attorneys who fight for our clients' interests and have experience working closely with the local family court community. For more information, you can fill out our Custody Questionnaire, or call us to set up an in-person consultation with our attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you.