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How Is Child Custody Determined in Alabama?


One of the most challenging decisions that a court makes is in deciding child custody — especially under Alabama divorce law. According to Alabama state law, the court can give custody to the father or mother, or both, based on which arrangement the court determines to be in the child’s best interests after considering the evidence presented. 

The state of Alabama and its divorce courts have the inherent power to enter orders regarding custody and care of any minor children. This can be very stressful for a parent or guardian looking out for what’s best for their children. Understanding the law and where you fit is the first step in navigating the child custody process.

At Brackin Law Firm, we understand that going through child custody proceedings can be tricky. We represent men and women that need expert legal advice and compassionate guidance by providing exceptional service and attention throughout the case. The approach we take helps to ease dispute resolution, utilizing negotiation and mediation as they are necessary. 

Under Alabama’s child custody laws, the court makes the final decision on child/children’s custody. Today, we will take some time to explain what that means and how that might apply to you.

What Does Custody Mean?

Custody is a two-tiered term —the first tier meaning that there is legal and physical custody. Physical custody is meant to define where the child will be residing. In contrast, legal custody refers to the legal guardian who will be making all the critical decisions. These decisions are usually related to raising the child, where or what their education will be, religious choices, and any non-emergency medical care.

The next tier of custody takes both legal and physical custody and breaks them down. 

In the court, granting sole legal custody of the child permits that one parent alone will have decision-making authority. However, if joint legal custody is given, both parties get to have a say in decisions regarding the child. The court may give a certain parent final authority over certain decisions, while giving final authority over other decisions to the other parent. 

On the other hand, physical custody refers to where the child will reside, and the other parent’s visitation rights. If the court grants joint physical custody, the child will live with each parent for a specific period. This time can vary based on the agreement between the two and/or the court’s ultimate decision.

Custody Law in Alabama

Alabama child custody law favors the granting of joint legal custody as the preferred outcome, which will lead to the child/children having continuing to have frequent contact with both parents. This also allows both parents to share the responsibilities and rights of raising their child/children. However, for practical purposes, this analysis is strongly influenced by the judge assigned to your case. 

In Alabama, the court must put into consideration the potential for joint legal custody in every case. Joint legal custody can be awarded to the parents even if they don’t consent to it. If a request for joint legal custody from both parties is made, the court and the law will assume it’s in the child/children’s best interest. 

If this happens to be the case, then the court must rule in favor of it unless the judge is given a significant finding that joint legal custody isn’t in the child/children’s best interest. A custody plan that will fit the child’s interests will be made if the court believes that joint legal custody isn’t the best for the child.

When it comes to physical custody, the judge will consider the distance that the parents live from each other, among other factors. If there is a great distance between the parents, they just may determine that joint physical custody won’t be in the child’s best interest. This happens in most circumstances where moving back and forth could affect the child’s social activities, sports or music lessons, and education.

Alabama Standards for Best Interest of the Child 

There will be many factors that the judge will consider when making a verdict. It is important to note that the child’s preferences may also be considered, but the weight given to such evidence will depend on the age and maturity of the child. Deciding whether to call the child as a witness is not to be made lightly. A good rule of thumb is the older the child, the more their wishes will impact the decision, barring developmental disabilities or other factors that impede their capability to make informed decisions for themselves.. Here are some of the factors that the judge will take into consideration in the best interest of the child:

  1. Age and sex of the child
  2. Impact on the child with any change to the custody agreement
  3. The relationship the child has with each parent
  4. The stability as well as mental and physical health of the parent
  5. Strength of the agreement between each parent
  6. The home environment of the parent
  7. If each parent can meet the needs of the child and what the child’s needs are
  8. The child’s relationship with their siblings
  9. Any recommendations from experts that are involved in the custody case

Baldwin County Family Law — Representation Tailored To You and Your Family

At Brackin Law Firm, we provide a wide variety of legal guidance for anyone looking for a child custody attorney. With 40 years of experience, we understand the importance of finding an attorney that is right for you and will get you the outcome you deserve. We provide comprehensive care and representation that is tailored to your needs and unique situation.

No child custody or family case is the same. We are ready to help you understand your legal stance and figure out a settlement that works directly with your needs. Contact us today for the best legal services in Baldwin County.

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