Alabama Courts have wide discretion in child custody cases. A child becomes a ward of the court in custody proceedings, and any matter affecting the child is a concern of the court.
In Ex parte Divine , the Alabama Supreme Court enumerated twelve factors to be considered when deciding what is in the best interest of child in custody proceedings:
- Sex and age of the child
- Emotional, social, moral, material and educational needs of each child
- Home environments offered by each parent
- Parents age, character, stability, mental and physical health
- Parents capacity and interest in providing for the emotional, social, etc., needs of child
- Relationship between each child and each parent
- Relationship between children
- Effect on child of disrupting or continuing an existing custodial status
- Preference of child, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity
- Recommendations of experts
- Any available alternatives
- Any relevant matter
Past performance is often crucial in determining custody. However, a spouse's prior performance may not be an accurate portrait of their future performance once the realities of a divorce are present. A spouse who used to work at home taking care of the kids, may not be able to stay home full-time once the divorce is final. Their financial situation, time constraints and other realities have changed.
Thus, a court has the ultimate power in determining how your children are raised in a custody proceeding. This is just one more reason why my firm advocates divorce mediation and collaborative legal processes whenever possible. You should be the ones determining your child's best interest, not the courts.