Child Custody Attorneys in Huntsville
Maintaining & Establishing Fair Custody Arrangements for Clients in Madison County
Child custody disputes can arise in both divorce cases and paternity cases, and they can be difficult cases as the issues are so important. It is critical that parents in child custody disputes know their rights and options. At Rebekah L. Graham & Associates, we focus on helping parents maintain relationships with their children.
The main goal of our Huntsville child custody attorneys is to resolve custody issues in a way that allows children a healthy relationship with both parents and siblings. In our legal practice, we balance knowledgeable advocacy with compassionate counsel, and we keep the best interests of both our clients and our clients’ children in mind as we strategize our cases.
Are you facing a custody issue? Call Rebekah L. Graham & Associates today at (256) 792-6075 or contact us online to meet with our Huntsville child custody attorney.
Is Alabama a 50/50 Custody State?
Alabama is not a 50/50 child custody state, meaning that the courts do not necessarily grant both parents equal time with their children. The court's primary concern when determining child custody arrangements is how to best serve the best interests of the child.
In general, physical custody is granted primarily to one parent while legal custody may be shared between two parents if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the child. However, judges also have considerable leeway when it comes to creating unique arrangements that fit with each family's individual needs.
What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
Parents can be awarded legal and/or physical custody. Both of these forms of custody can be either joint (to both parents) or sole (to only one parent).
Legal custody refers to the legal decision-making authority for things such as the children’s education, medical/dental care, religious upbringing, athletic activities, civic activities, and cultural activities. If one parent is awarded sole legal custody, that parent has the right to make the decisions for all these areas. If the parents are awarded joint legal custody, there is generally some division of the areas between the parents.
Physical custody refers to where the children will live. If parties are awarded joint physical custody, then the children should reside with each parent approximately equal amounts of time. If one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the children primarily live with that parent, and the other parent is typically awarded visitation.
Alabama law requires the court to consider joint custody in every case, but the court may award any form of custody that is determined to be in the best interest of the child.
At What Age Can a Child Make a Custody Decision in Alabama?
In Alabama, the law states that a minor child cannot make their own custody decision until they reach the age of majority, which is 19. At this age, the court presumes that a young adult is mature enough to make decisions regarding their own welfare and has the legal right to choose where they will live.
It should also be noted that if a child expressing a preference as to which parent they want to live with before turning 18, this can still be considered by a judge when making his or her ruling on custody but it is not legally binding on the outcome of any case. Ultimately, when it comes to custodial matters concerning minors in Alabama, what will determine whether such an arrangement is allowed or not is whether or not it serves the best interests of the child in question.
What Happens if My Child's Other Parent Wants to Move Away?
If a custodial parent in Alabama wants to move away with their minor children, there are additional steps that must be taken in order for it to be allowed by the court.
- The non-custodial parent must agree to allow such a move or;
- The custodial parent must provide proof to the court as to why allowing the move would be in the best interest of their child despite any objections from the other party
The Best Interests of the Child
When deciding on the initial custody arrangement, a judge will examine what is in the children’s best interests. Such best-interest factors include:
- the agreement (or lack of an agreement) between the parents on joint custody;
- the past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and made decisions jointly;
- the ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
- any history of or potential for child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping;
- the geographic proximity of the parents to each other;
- the age and sex of the children;
- the children's needs (emotional, material, educational), and each parent's ability to meet those needs;
- the parents’ home environments;
- the parents’ age, stability, and mental and physical health;
- the nature of the children's relationship with each parent;
- the nature of the children's relationship with any siblings;
- the children’s preferences, if they are of sufficient age and maturity;
- reports and recommendations of experts, such as psychologists; and,
- any other factors deemed relevant.
Note that if the court determines a parent has committed domestic violence, there is a presumption that giving that parent any form of custody would not be in the children's best interests. However, this presumption is "rebuttable," so the court may still award custody to that parent if that parent can prove to the court’s satisfaction that an award of custody would not be detrimental to the children.
What Must a Parent Prove to Modify Physical Custody?
Once a custody order gives either parent sole physical custody of children, a parent seeking to modify physical custody must prove the following:
- a material change of circumstance has occurred;
- the positive good brought about by the modification of custody would more than offset the inherently disruptive effect caused by uprooting the child;
- the parent seeking custody is fit; and,
- the change of custody materially promotes the children’s best interest and welfare.
Let Our Child Custody Attorney in Huntsville Help You
If you are facing a child custody dispute in the Huntsville area, reach out to our attorneys at Rebekah L. Graham & Associates immediately for legal representation. We take a client-oriented approach to our practice and will tailor our legal strategy to your goals and your children’s best interests. Our Huntsville child custody attorneys are compassionate family advocates who understand the benefits of maintaining a strong parental relationship with your children, and we will work to negotiate a favorable custody arrangement that honors your parenting potential.
Contact the child custody attorneys in Huntsville at Rebekah L. Graham & Associates today to schedule a consultation!
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