Child Custody in Alabama
In Alabama, there are generally two different types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions concerning the child’s health, education, religion, and other such important decisions for the child. Physical custody is only the actual living arrangements of the child and is given to the person who the child is primarily living with most of the time and has the responsibilities of the day to day care of the child.
The person that has physical custody is called the custodial parent and other parent is called the non-custodial parent. Most custody arrangements in Alabama are for joint legal custody and sole physical custody with the non-custodial parent having liberal rights to visitation with the child, such as every weekend or every other weekend, and the non-custodial parent paying child support in some amount.
There are alternative custody arrangements such as joint legal and joint physical custody, sometimes called shared custody, where the children are spending equal amounts of time with each parent such as one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. There is another type of custody arrangement where one parent has sole physical and sole legal custody, which is rarely ordered by the Alabama Courts without a good reason. Split custody is highly unusual as well, and involves splitting up two or more children with one going with one parent and the other living with the other. This type of custody is discouraged in Alabama since it involves splitting up siblings.
All of these types of custody can be ordered at various times throughout the divorce process. In some contested divorces, a hearing is held very early in the process, almost immediately after the divorce is filed, to determine who will have physical custody of the child pending the outcome of the divorce. This is a very important hearing, since the parent that the child lives with for the months from the time the divorce is filed until the actual trial is can be in a very favorable position to receive physical custody at trial.
This awarding of custody pending the outcome of the divorce process is sometimes called temporary custody. Temporary physical custody is sometimes awarded to the parent that is still living in the marital home in order to promote stability in the child’s life so that the child does not have to uproot themselves and move into another home. However, custody determinations are typically decided by determining what is in the best interests of the child. In Alabama, the judge will take many different factors into consideration when making considerations of custody and what is in the best interest of the child.
Once temporary custody is awarded, then hearings are held and a custody evaluation is sometimes performed. A custody evaluation is where a social worker or mental health professional performs an evaluation by conducting interviews with various individuals involved in the child’s life, in order to give a recommendation as to the custody of the child. After this recommendation is performed and submitted to the court, a trial can still occur at which the judge will decide the parent’s custody rights, child support, and visitation considerations after hearing evidence presented by the divorce lawyers of both parents.