Everyone loves their children and wants what is best for them. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for divorcing parents to not be able to agree on just what is in the minor children’s best interest. That’s when the divorce courts get involved.
In the past in Alabama, there was a “marital presumption” that children of a tender age were better off with their mother. However, this is not longer the law in Alabama. As a practical matter, many judges may feel that infants should be with their mother, but they can no longer rely on the “marital presumption” in making this determination.
The law in Alabama for all minor children is that primary physical custody should be based upon what is in the minor child’s best interest. Some divorcees in Alabama with multiple minor children have made attempts to allow one child live with the father, and the other child with the mother. This practice is disfavored by the Alabama courts, as it is presumed to be in the siblings best interest to be raised in the same household.
Another practice that has been disfavored by many divorce judges in the State of Alabama is split custody with one parent having the children 50% of the time, with the other parent having the other 50%. Many divorce judges see this as an unstable arrangement that does not allow the children to have consistency.
So in the large majority of divorces in Alabama, one party is granted primary physical custody of all of the parties minor children. This does NOT mean that this parent gets to make all of the decisions related to their upbringing. Primary physical custody is not the same as Sole Custody. Sole Custody is where one parent has the sole authority to act on behalf of the child without consulting the other parent. Sole Custody is disfavored in Alabama, unless sole custody can be shown to be in the children’s best interest.
Most divorce decrees in Alabama grant the parties “joint legal custody” with one parent having “primary physical custody.” This means that the children primarily live with one parent, but both parents have equal authority when it comes to decisions involving the children.
It is common for the parent with primary physical custody to feel they have more authority in dealing with the children, because the children live with them. However, under a joint custody arrangement , this is not the case. Alabama law as it pertains to joint custody is that the minor children should have frequent contact with parents that will act in the child’s best interest. The law also provides that both parents should have the same rights and responsibilities when it comes to making important decisions in their children’s life. If the divorce court believes both parents can work together for the best interests of the children, joint custody is often ordered. Only when one party does not appear capable of parenting due to a past history of abuse, disinterest, or geographical impediment will the Alabama divorce courts order sole custody.
If you have any questions about joint custody in Alabama, contact a child custody attorney with Boles Holmes White LLC to schedule a free consultation.