The best interests of the child are the most important consideration in determining child custody and visitation in Alabama. Because joint custody is presumed to be in the best interests of the child(ren) in Alabama, the judge shall consider joint custody in every case. If both parents request it, joint custody shall be ordered unless the Court makes a specific finding as to why it should not be so ordered.
Alabama law recognizes three forms of custody: temporary custody, physical custody and legal custody. Alabama courts prefer to order joint custody whenever possible, but many factors can be taken into consideration, and courts are always able to deviate if it is in the best interest of the children to do so. A court can consider several factors when deciding custody issues, including the following inconclusive list.
•The parents’ wishes as to the type of custody that should be awarded,
•The parents’ ability or willingness to jointly make decisions in the best interest of the child (or children),
•The distance between parents’ homes, if it would present issues regarding a joint custody arrangement,
•The ability or willingness of each parent to encourage and foster love and respect for the other parent, and
•The best interest of the child (or children).
When a couple files for a contested divorce, a temporary child custody order is entered by the court. At the conclusion of a divorce, the marital agreement includes a final custody and visitation order.
The final marital agreement will include a legal child custody order. Joint legal custody means that both parents make the major decisions that affect a child (or children). The courts look for a cooperative attitude between the parents to ensure that the decisions will be made jointly and in the best interest of the child (or children).
The final divorce agreement includes a physical custody order. Physical custody determines where the child resides, and when the child visits the other parent. The majority of child custody orders by Alabama courts include joint legal and joint physical custody.
In most cases, the non-custodial parent will be granted some form of visitation with the child or children. The most commonly referred to “standard visitation” includes overnight visits every other weekend and a period of 5 or 6 weeks in the summer. Generally, the parties will alternate holiday visitation between even and odd years.
It is important to note that child support and visitation are not directly linked together. You cannot withhold visitation if the non-custodial parent fails to pay child support. Failure to pay court ordered child support is a breach of the court order, but so is failure to allow visitation. If the non-custodial parent fails to make child support payments, the remedy is for the custodial parent to file a Rule Nisi or Contempt Petition. The same remedy is available if the custodial parent denies visitation to the other parent.
If you are considering a divorce in Decatur or Huntsville, Alabama, we are here to help. We have offices conveniently located in downtown Decatur and Huntsville. Call now. Call 256-534-3435 or 256-350-7200.
Huntsville Office Location:
303 Williams Avenue SW
Huntsville, AL 35801
Decatur Office Location:
401 Lee Street, Suite 607A
Decatur, AL 35601