Child Custody Attorneys in Auburn, Alabama
During a divorce, there are few issues that are more contentious and emotionally-charged than child custody. Oftentimes, divorcing spouses have serious disagreements about who should have custody of the child(ren) and how much time the non-custodial parent should be able to spend with the kids. Custody and visitation arrangements can be agreed on between both parents and presented to the court for approval. However, when there is a dispute over this issue, it is important to have strong legal counsel in your corner advocating aggressively for your rights and interests, and the best interests of your child.
Child Custody Defined
At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson LLP, we understand the emotional impact child custody cases can have on loving parents, and we work closely with our clients to develop solutions that fully protect their interests while preserving delicate family relationships. We have been serving the Auburn, Alabama community for over five decades, and we have a successful track record helping clients secure favorable outcomes.
We have a personalized approach, and we are singularly focused on the needs of our clients. Our attorneys have an in-depth understanding of child custody laws in Alabama and how the laws are applied by the courts. We know the primary factors the court uses when making a custody determination, and we can thoroughly analyze your case and advise you of your rights and options on how best to pursue the outcome you are seeking.
Alabama Child Custody Laws
In Alabama, child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. If the parents are unable to agree among themselves, the court uses several factors to decide which parent should have custody of the kids. These may include:
- The age and gender of the child;
- The health and strength of the relationship between the child and each parent;
- The child’s current living situation (e.g., where and with whom the child currently resides);
- The impact on the child of disturbing or disrupting his/her present living situation;
- The interest and current level of involvement of each parent in the life of the child;
- The characteristics and needs of the child (e.g., physical, emotional, social, moral, material, and educational);
- The physical, mental, and emotional health of each parent;
- Any history of sexual assault, domestic abuse, or other violent crimes on the part of either parent;
- The preferences of the child (if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to offer a meaningful opinion);
- Any other factors or evidence that the court may deem relevant in determining the child’s best interest.
There are three different types of child custody in Alabama:
As the name implies, this is a temporary custody arrangement that is entered by the court when a couple files for divorce. During the initial filing, the court examines the factors that may be relevant to the case and issues a temporary order. This order is valid until a final custody and visitation order is issued at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings. The temporary custody arrangement is very important, because a court’s initial determination will carry a lot of weight when deciding on the final custody arrangement.
This refers to the decision-making authority of each parent. Examples include decisions regarding education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extra-curricular activities. Either parent could be awarded sole legal custody to make decisions on behalf of the child. On the other hand, the parents could be given joint legal custody in which parents must confer with each other on these major decisions. The courts prefer a joint legal custody arrangement, giving both parents input into how the child will be raised. However, they may award sole legal custody if they determine that this arrangement serves the child’s best interest.
This refers to where the child physically resides. As with legal custody, either parent can be granted sole physical custody, or the parents can have joint physical custody. Sole physical custody is when the child lives with one parent and visits the other. Joint physical custody is when the child has frequent ongoing contact with both parents. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the child spends an equal amount of nights with each parent. This time is typically split unevenly, such as 60/40 or 70/30. Schedules, distance between the two parents’ homes, and other specific circumstances help determine the joint physical custody schedule that works best for each situation.
When one parent has sole physical custody, a visitation schedule is set up for the non-custodial parent to address their level of access to the child (e.g., when they will see the child, where the visits will take place, how long the child is allowed to stay with the non-custodial parent, etc.) The court has broad discretion to grant visitation rights to a non-custodial parent, even if they did not previously spend much time with the child. In some cases, however, visitation may be restricted if the court determines that the non-custodial parent poses a danger to the child and/or the other parent. In these types of cases, the court may order supervised visitation or no visitation at all.
Relocation and Child Custody Laws in Alabama
After a divorce is finalized, circumstances often change, and parents sometimes move to different homes. This could be to care for a family member who is ill, to start a new job, to take advantage of educational opportunities, or many other reasons. When a custodial parent decides to move with the child outside of Alabama or more than 60 miles from the child’s current home within the state, they are required to give written notification to the non-custodial parent at least 45 days prior to the move.
The non-custodial parent has the right to object to the move and ask the court to block it and/or modify the child custody arrangement. When this occurs, the court makes a final determination based on the child’s best interests. If you are a custodial parent who is planning to move, or you want to object to your ex moving out of town with your child, you need an experienced attorney by your side who knows how to argue persuasively for your rights and interests.
Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Child Custody Lawyer
For skilled guidance and direction with child custody and related family legal matters, Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, Attorneys at Law is here to help! To schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys, call our office today at 334-821-3892. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form, or stop by our Auburn office at your convenience.