Child Custody and
Huntsville Child Custody Attorney
Cases involving divorce, child custody, adoption or other family law matters have lasting consequences for families. It is essential that your family law matter be handled with the compassion and skill from the outset to avoid disputes in the future.
Most Common Child Custody Arrangements
"Joint legal and Joint physical custody in Alabama" means both parents have full parental rights and responsibilities for their children, and parents normally make major decisions together when they affect the welfare of the children. The child lives with both parents and equally splits his or her time between each parent's households.
"Sole physical custody" means the court has given responsibility for minor-age children to one parent, with or without rights of visitation for the other parent.
"Joint Legal Custody and Standard Visitation" means both parties have full parental rights and responsibilities for their children and should normally make major decision together when they affect the welfare of the children. However, one parent has primary physical custody, meaning the child lives with that parent, and the other parent receives visitation according to the court's standard visitation schedule.
"Sole legal and physical custody" means the court has given responsibility for minor-age children to one parent, with or without rights of visitation for the other parent.
Custodial Rights in Dating Relationships
Parents who live together and are not married face legal issues that their married counterparts simply do not face. Issues such as proving paternity , ensuring the child qualifies for government benefits and insurance, parental rights to school and medical information, and claiming the child on tax forms are common issues that unmarried parents must address when living together.
Because unmarried couples don’t get divorced, judges and lawyers aren’t necessarily involved in the child-raising issues. But when the parties split up, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced child custody attorney.
Although a child born to an unmarried biological father may be raised by that parent, the law does not recognize the father as the child's legal father. In Alabama, the nonlegal parent has few legal rights unless he believes he may be the biological father of the child. This is usually true even if the nonlegal parent has helped raise the child for many years and is a primary giver of care and emotional support.
To become the legal father either parent or legal custodian, may petition the court to establish legal paternity. The petitioning party may seek the help of the Alabama Department of Human Resources to establish paternity and child support, but the department does not handle custody. You will need a Huntsville Child Custody Lawyer on your side.
Once paternity is established, the father will have the legal right to pursue custody and visitation with his child.
Custodial Rights in a Divorce
In an Alabama Divorce, a child’s residential schedule and other parental rights and responsibilities are typically addressed in a Settlement Agreement, when uncontested, or in a Final Decree of Divorce/Court Order, when contested. Unfortunately, when a clear visitation schedule is not established, one of the parents is more likely to abuse their rights, and the children are the ones that are harmed. Even in an amicable divorce, things can turn sour down the road.
Alabama law and Madison County judges favor joint custody unless it can be shown that joint custody would not be in the child's best interests. The court has broad discretion to consider any factors that may impact the child's best interest. The most common factors considered are:
Any history of domestic violence by either parent, including both spousal abuse and child abuse
The sex and age of the children
The characteristics and needs of the children, including their emotional, social, moral, material, and educational needs
The home environments of each parent
The physical distance between the parents’ residences
The child’s relationship with each parent
The impact a change in residence would have on the child’s other family and social relationships
A parent’s ability to encourage a meaningful relationship between the child and the other parent
The parents’ ability to cooperate and communicate with each other and make decisions together regarding the child’s upbringing
The parties respective capacity and interest in providing for the needs of the children
Any other factor or relevant evidence which may be presented by the parties that has a bearing on the determination of the best interest of the child.
Although Alabama custody laws prefer joint custody, the law does state that joint custody means an equal amount of physical custody time to each parent.
Contact our office today at (256) 551-1151 to speak with an experienced Huntsville Child Custody Attorney.