What does shared custody mean in Alabama? When two parties are getting a divorce, one of the most important issues is child custody. The Circuit Court judge has the discretion to determine child custody, which essentially means that the judge will decide which parent will primarily be responsible for the children. Even though it is commonly referred to when discussing child custody, shared custody is not a type of custody that is actually awarded. There are two types of custody, and there are two ways that the judge may order those types of custody to be carried out by each parent.
Child custody consists of both legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody covers the legal decision-making authority of each parent on behalf of their children. These decisions could concern things like healthcare, education, extracurricular involvement, and any other decisions that must be made for the children. Physical custody, on the other hand, deals with which parent the children will predominantly live and spend time with. It is more focused on which parent will regularly, physically care for the children on a day-to-day basis. When a contested divorce in Huntsville is filed with children, then custody will need to be addressed quickly.
The Circuit Court judge gets to decide how both types of custody will be divided between the two parents. Custody can be awarded either jointly or solely. Joint custody means that the two parents have to share custody with each other. For example, joint legal custody means that both parents are legally allowed to make decisions on behalf of their children. Legal custody is generally awarded jointly because it allows the parents to split the rights and responsibilities of parenting, so they can both make decisions concerning their children. Joint physical custody when going through a divorce in Shelby County means that the children will go back and forth between each parent and live with them for significant periods of time, but it is not guaranteed that each parent will have equal time. If it is possible, joint physical custody is most likely the best option for children, but it is usually not possible because it requires the parents to get along well with one another.
When sole custody is awarded, one parent, and one parent only, will have custody of the children. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, then they can make every single decision on behalf of their children, and the other parent legally cannot make any of the decisions. Sole legal custody is not as common as joint legal custody because it does not require the custodial parent to consult with or obtain the consent of the other parent. Sole physical custody means that the children will live with that one parent who was awarded custody. However, visitation is typically ordered by the court, which is where the judge awards the noncustodial parent with set days and times that they can spend with their children. Visitation is not absolute, and the judge may decide not to award visitation to the noncustodial parent if they believe it is not in the best interest of the children.
Even though the judge has full discretion to award child custody, the custody and visitation awarded in the divorce is simply the schedule that will be enforced if the matter is brought back to court. The parents are always allowed to share custody and visitation more or less if that is what they both want and agree on, but they must both agree. If they do not agree or one parent refuses to abide by the court order, the matter will likely be brought back to the Circuit Court. It is best when going through a custody process to have a local divorce attorney in Birmingham helping you through it. If you call us today, we can explain what shared custody means in Alabama.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!