Alabama law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child. Typically, Alabama favors joint custody as long as both parents are acting in the child’s best interest.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. If parents can agree to a custody schedule and shared responsibilities, the court will typically honor their parenting plan. If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, they can submit separate, proposed plans to the court for consideration.
What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?
If there is a custody dispute, Alabama courts award custody based on the best interest of the child. Alabama’s custody laws allow a judge to consider a wide variety of factors, including:
- The child’s age and gender,
- The child’s health, welfare, and safety,
- The child’s need for stability,
- The emotional and developmental needs of the child,
- The physical and mental health of the parent,
- The parents’ home environment,
- The parent’s age and character,
- The importance of sibling and other familial relationships, and
- The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate).
If there is evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse, the judge will presume that the abuser should not have custody. However, this is a rebuttable presumption and the alleged abuser may argue that he or she is entitled to custody or visitation. In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests.
What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?
Once the parenting plan and divorce order are signed, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved parenting plan and the court must approve any modification of the plan. Typically, a custody order can be changed if there has been a substantial change in you or your child’s circumstances.
Should I Contact an Alabama Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?
Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced family law lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.