Understanding Child Custody in Alabama

Child custody is one of the most emotionally fraught aspects of a divorce, and in this blog entry we will break down the possible outcomes. There are several common custody arrangements in Alabama: joint custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody, sole legal custody, and sole physical custody.

Sole legal custody means that one parent has legal custody of the minor children, with the other parent being awarded visitation rights. The parent with sole legal custody provides the home for the children. This parent is responsible for making all decisions related to the children, such as medical decisions and decisions about education. The noncustodial parent has few rights. Sometimes parents choose this custodial arrangement, and sometimes a divorce is so contentious that the court decides the parties will never be able to work together and the court rules that one parent should have sole legal custody. Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent, with the other parent having visitation rights.

With a joint legal custody situation, each parent has a say in major decisions. Both parties should be kept informed about the child’s education, medical requirements, and extra-curricular activities. Sometimes if one area of the child’s life is particularly contentious, one parent is designated as having the authority to make final decisions in that area. Sometimes decision-making authority is divided between parents, the relevant areas usually being the academic, religious, civic, cultural, athletic, and medical. If the parents have joint physical custody, the children split their time, but not necessarily equally, between both parents’ homes.

There are a variety of custodial combinations such as legal and physical joint custody; one parent having sole physical custody with both parents having joint legal custody; one parent having sole legal and sole physical custody; one parent having sole legal custody and both parents having joint physical custody. The most common option is for one parent to have sole physical custody and for both parents to have joint legal custody.

Custody fights can be very difficult for everyone involved, including the children. A parent needs to prove that he or she has been providing care for the children and is very involved in their lives. Demonstrating this to the satisfaction of the court can be a stressful process, but we can help. Please contact us today if you’d like to learn more!