Despite everyone’s best intentions, children usually find themselves at the center of one of the most challenging issues when it comes to divorce. Parents often find themselves on opposing sides regarding where their children should live, how often and when the other party can be with them.
In an Alabama divorce, the court prioritizes the child’s best interests, safety, and well-being. Often a child will have a preference of where they want to live. The court may consider it depending on the circumstances and age of the child.
The best way to protect your family and your interest is to hire a local family law attorney to help you with your divorce and child custody arrangements. Below we will explain how and if the child’s preference influences custody in Alabama divorce.
When Will An Alabama Court Allow A Child’s Preference To Be Considered?
Depending on the age and maturity level of the child, the court may consider the child’s preferences should they choose to share it. While the child’s selection doesn’t completely control the outcome of the court’s decision, it can influence the court’s decision. Even though there is no specific age requirement for Alabama courts to consider a child’s preference, the judge must determine if the child is adequately mature enough to choose where and with whom they live.
The reasons a child may prefer to live with one parent rather than the other can also influence the judge and impact the final custody arrangements. An example would be if the child states they have a healthier relationship and are closer to one parent, the judge will usually consider their preference. However, if the child’s reason is related to discipline, the judge will most likely not be influenced by the child’s preference. The court may also consider other custody factors, such as if there are multiple siblings, and the judge may view their preferences together to develop the best custody arrangements. The final judgment, however, is closely tied to the child’s best interest.
The Best Interest of The Child Comes First
In an Alabama divorce, the judge will always choose what they believe is in the child’s best interest. However, if the judge decides that the child’s preference isn’t in the child’s best interest, then they will likely not be influenced by the child’s preference. Sometimes, a child merely wants more freedom and desires to live with the parent that provides it. Doing so is likely not in the child’s best interests.
Main Factors In Determining Child Custody In Alabama Divorce
Whenever parents disagree on child custody arrangements, the judge will be required to decide. In Alabama, while the court favors joint custody, it often grants physical custody to one of the parents when they divorce, and the judge will decide what is in the child’s best interest. The following are factors that Alabama judges use to determine custody:
- Any positive or negative impact on the educational or emotional development of the child
- The child’s connection and relationship with their siblings and both parents
- The age and sex of the child
- The emotional, moral, social, and physical needs of the child
- The environment in both of the parent’s home
- The physical and mental health of the parents
- The ability of the parents to provide for the child
- The long-term impact of changing current custody arrangements on the child
- Recommendations made by experts
- The preference of the child if they are mature and at a reasonable age
- Any history of domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or child abuse
- Other vital factors related to child custody
Will Your Child Need To Testify Regarding Their Custody Preference?
Having a child testify about whom they want to live in court is discouraged. However, sometimes it is essential. Sometimes a child is the only individual with personal knowledge of critical facts related to the case.
The court may also request the testimony of an expert witness who will give their expert opinion after speaking with a child to determine their custodial preferences.
Remember that how you talk to your child about your divorce will significantly impact them. It is often challenging even under an amicable divorce, and it is vital to always keep the child’s best interest in mind.
Brackin Law Firm In Baldwin County Is Here To Help You
At Brackin Family Law, we provide comprehensive care and representation tailored to your unique situation. We have over 40 years of experience working to resolve conflict peacefully through negotiation or mediation and will fight for your rights if needed in court.
We understand that each case is different, and everyone’s circumstances are unique, whether you are going through a divorce or need an attorney to help with estate planning or other legal issues. Contact us today, and we will begin helping you right away!