In Alabama, child custody laws for unmarried parents can feel overwhelming and confusing. Creating a child custody agreement with which both parties are happy can be incredibly challenging without the guidance of an experienced attorney.
Usually, Alabama courts allow both parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. The court does its best to ensure that children have regular and meaningful contact with both parents as long as they are both capable of maintaining and handling their responsibilities as a parent.
Alabama child custody laws focus on the child’s best interests, and the rules are similar for determining child custody in a divorce. This article will discuss Alabama’s guidelines to award custody to unmarried parents, types of child custody, and common mistakes.
Factors That Influence Child Custody
There are several common things Alabama courts consider when awarding child custody, including the following:
- The environment in the home. Each parent must be able to provide for the child emotionally, financially, mentally, and physically. They must also show that they can make age-appropriate decisions for their children
- The gender and age of the child
- The overall safety and well-being of the child
- Parental characteristics, including age, mental and physical health, and stability
- The general relationship between each parent and the child. The willingness of the individual to build a strong, long-term relationship with the other parent and child
- The parent’s ability to cooperate and agree to the terms of their joint custody agreement and work together amicably
- If there is a history of domestic violence, physical or emotional abuse, substance abuse, or sexual abuse
There can be other influential components; however, there are many factors the Alabama family court considers when determining child custody between unmarried parents. These same factors are also considered when two people are getting a divorce.
The Best Interest of The Child
Alabama courts prefer joint custody; however, “the best interest of the child” plays a significant part in determining custody matters. Joint custody doesn’t always translate to a 50-50 split. Often, the court awards the majority of physical custody of the child to the parent who provides most of the child’s caretaking, has a solid foundational support system through the family or community that the child is connected to, and lives in the child’s current school district.
The court will opt for the ideal circumstances for the child that will allow for the greatest amount of consistency and the least amount of disruption to the child’s life.
Different Types Of Child Custody For Unmarried Parents
Usually, Alabama courts assume that joint custody is best for the child. However, a parent can challenge this should there be any history of abuse, domestic violence, criminal activity, inability to care for the child, substance abuse, etc. Different types of custody include the following:
- Joint Custody. Parents share decision-making and responsibilities for the child but don’t live together. This can include alternating weeks, weekends, and holidays at both parents’ homes.
- Sole Custody. If one parent is unavailable or unfit due to past abuse, neglect, incarceration, or substance abuse, the other parent may be awarded sole custody.
- Legal Custody. A parent awarded legal custody has the obligation and the right to make decisions about the child’s care. If the state awards joint legal custody, the parents share the right to make decisions for academic and medical matters.
- Physical Custody. Parents awarded the right to live with their children are granted physical custody. With joint physical custody, the child spends equal time with each parent. When a child only lives with one parent, that parent has sole physical custody, and generally, the noncustodial parent is granted visitation rights.
Child Custody Mistakes Commonly Made By Unmarried Parents
- Not seeking legal advice. Before you take action or do anything regarding your child custody case, hiring an experienced attorney in Baldwin County, Alabama, is essential to protect your rights and family.
- Assume that the child’s father can’t get custody. Historically, laws in Alabama and other states usually favored the mother over the father; however, this is no longer true. Child custody in Alabama is generally determined based on what is best for the child.
- Failure to think about the best interest of the child. Every decision you make affects your child, and it’s vital to make sure your decisions are in your child’sBrac best interest.
Rights Of Unmarried Parents In Alabama
You must understand your legal rights if you are an unmarried parent involved in a child custody dispute in Baldwin County, Alabama.
Hire The Experts At Brackin Law Firm To Help You With Your Child Custody Case
If you and your partner are splitting up and have children, whether unmarried or filing for a divorce, hiring an experienced attorney to support you and protect your family, and your rights is essential.
At Brackin Law, we are here to help you, and the legal team has over 40 treats of comprehensive family law experience. Whether you need help with child custody and support, property division, paternity, restraining and protective orders, and more, we promise you the representation you deserve. Contact us today for a consultation.