There are a variety of legal and emotional implications that come along with the decision to divorce. Navigating these complexities can feel particularly overwhelming when your emotions are already heightened, and these feelings are only amplified when there are children involved. The thought of dividing up time with your children is daunting, adding an extra layer of turmoil to an already difficult situation.
Custody can be a complex legal process with many facets to consider. From the different types of custody and the factors that influence it, to the way visitation or relocation works, the prospect of creating a custody arrangement in order to co-parent can leave you with several unanswered questions. Here are some questions that we’ve taken the time to answer for you so that you might find some peace of mind amidst the chaos (although for personalized legal advice, you need to speak with attorneys about your unique situation).
1. What Are The Different Types Of Custody?
In Alabama, there are two types of custody, legal and physical, and two subcategories, sole and joint.
Legal custody is what gives a parent the right to make long-term decisions on behalf of their children when it comes to matters like healthcare, education, religion, dental care, and more. This responsibility can be owned solely by one of the parents, but it’s traditionally shared jointly by both parents (preferred by Alabama courts) unless there is an extenuating circumstance where this wouldn’t be appropriate.
Physical custody refers to where the child will live daily. Like legal custody, one parent can have sole physical custody, or both parents can share joint physical custody. However, even if physical custody is shared jointly, it doesn’t mean that the children will split their time with their parents 50/50.
As previously mentioned, the courts typically favor joint legal custody unless there are extenuating circumstances which would hinder that possibility. These circumstances usually include one parent having a history of neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence, and more. This also pertains to physical custody.
2. What Factors Determine Child Custody?
If two divorcing parents are on amicable terms and are able to agree on a custody arrangement, that helps keep the decision-making power in their hands, rather than leaving it up to a judge. However, not all parents are able to agree on an arrangement, so it’s often necessary for the courts to step in.
A judge will consider a variety of factors to evaluate what kind of arrangement will be in the best interest of the children. A few of these factors include but are not limited to the following:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s preference (if they are old enough)
- A history of substance abuse or domestic violence
- The child’s well-being
- The child’s school location
- And more!
A judge will also consider the children’s needs, as well as the mental and physical health of both parents, so they can determine their ability to meet those needs.
3. Can Custody Agreements Be Modified?
After custody matters are taken care of, it is possible that you, your children, or your co-parent’s circumstances will change, resulting in the need for the custody arrangement to be modified.
Some of the reasons you might deem this necessary and a judge may modify your custody order include the relocation of you or your children’s other parent, a criminal conviction or an incident of abuse or neglect, children’s preference, one party’s failure to follow a custody order, a change in the children’s needs, or something else.
You can find the request change form amongst other information here. However, enlisting the help of a seasoned custody attorney can give you the best possible advantage in obtaining the modification you’re seeking as they can explain your legal options and assist you through the process.
4. How Does Visitation Work?
Visitation is usually worked out in a divorce decree or custody arrangement to determine a parenting plan that outlines a schedule for where the children will primarily reside, visitation for the non-custodial parent, holidays, and more. Often sole custody will be granted to one parent, and “reasonable visitation,” granted to the other. Or, if you agree on everything, a judge may grant you joint physical custody, leaving the schedule arranging to you and your co-parent. If you’re the non-custodial parent receiving pushback from the custodial parent regarding visitation, or if you’re sharing joint custody and an issue arises, a family law attorney can help you with the mediation process in order to resolve the conflict as amicably as possible.
5. Do Grandparents’ Have Rights in Custody Cases?
Child custody and visitation rights are not limited to biological parents. Because Alabama courts believe in doing what’s in the best interest of the children, they know that sometimes means neither biological parent is a fit, but a grandparent or even step grandparent is better suited to care for the children. Like any other custody case, there are steps that need to be taken by grandparents in order to obtain legal custody. A custody attorney will be familiar with the laws that are applicable to grandparents and can explain their options, rights, and responsibilities.
6. Can Custody Orders Be Enforced?
Custody orders are not suggestions. Once you’ve received your final orders, both you and your co-parent are responsible for abiding by the terms set forth by yourselves or a judge. If your co-parent does not abide by provisions outlined in your custody arrangement, you have the right to take legal action. While continuing to comply with your arrangement, you can file a custody enforcement action with the court against your co-parent. The same can be done if you have a child support arrangement in place and your co-parent isn’t paying the proper amount if any at all.
How Foxtrot Family Law Can Help You
If you and your spouse have made the difficult decision to divorce and you need to create a custody arrangement for your children, the custody attorneys at Foxtrot Family Law can help! We have 35+ combined years of experience with Alabama’s family laws, so we know what it takes to help you reach a favorable outcome. We are skilled negotiators but we can also fight strategically and aggressively on your behalf when necessary. Call now to request a consultation and discover your options.