Divorce can be an extremely difficult and stressful process on both spouses, especially when children are involved. It is important for parents to understand that the divorce process can also take its toll on children, causing children of all ages stress and frustration, too. An important part of helping to make the divorce process as easy on children involved in it as possible is making sure that parents understand the different types of custody and the various types of custody arrangements that might be awarded by an Alabama court. Alabama custody laws can be found in the Code of Alabama Title 30, Chapter 3. A brief introduction to the two main types of custody – legal and physical – is below, but a Birmingham divorce attorney that has experience in the divorce process can be helpful in explaining the different nuances involved in determining which type of custody arrangement is best for you and your child.
Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make important choices for their child or children. Such choices might include decisions about education, health care, religion, and other important aspects of a child's upbringing. In Alabama, it is possible to be awarded either sole legal custody or joint legal custody. Many times, a court will award joint legal custody to both parents. This allows both parents to have a say in making these important decisions for the child involved. In cases where a parent is awarded sole legal custody of their child, that parent has the sole right to make these types of important decisions for the child or children in question even if the other parent retains some type of physical custody or visitation.
Courts tend to prefer awarding joint legal custody. However, there are some cases where doing so is not feasible or not in the best interests of the child involved. For instance, some marriages have deteriorated to the point where spouses are unable to communicate effectively with each other. This inability to communicate can be exasperated by the divorce process, and awarding joint legal custody may ultimately have a negative impact on the child involved as well as the parents' relationship with the child. Sole legal custody may also be awarded in cases where one parent makes the decision to move out of state or does not request joint legal custody during the divorce.
Physical custody refers to a parent's right to be with the child for a specified period of time. Like legal custody, physical custody may be awarded as sole physical custody or joint physical custody. Courts usually operate under the presumption that a child's best interests are met when that child can spend time with both parents, and as such usually prefer to award joint physical custody based on a parenting plan that spells out for the court which times the child will be with which parent throughout the year.
However, the presumption that a child's best interests are met by spending time with both parents can be rebutted. In other words, it can be overcome and sole physical custody can be awarded in some circumstances. Sole physical custody is common in situations where one parent has been found to be abusive. Sole physical custody may also be awarded in cases where one parent has some type of deficiency, such as a drug or alcohol addiction, that the court decides makes them unfit to care for a child at the time of the custody arrangement.
Help With Child Custody Issues
If you are considering divorce and have questions about how the divorce process will affect your child in relation to custody, or if you have questions about modifying a current custody arrangement, contact a Birmingham divorce attorney to schedule a consultation and learn about your rights. The dedicated staff at Eversole Law will help you understand the divorce process more thoroughly and can provide more information on the various types of custody arrangements that may be available to you in Alabama.