Dothan Child Custody Attorney
Most people love their children and want what is best for them. However, in divorces it is common for the parents to disagree on what is in the children’s best interests. This is where the divorce judge has to get involved.
Primary Physical Custody
Historically in Alabama, a “marital presumption” existed which stated young children are better off in their mother’s custody. This is no longer the law, and females should no longer be favored simply because they are the mother. In reality, many divorce judges feel infants that are breastfeeding should be in the custody of their mother, but there is no “marital presumption” for them to rely on in making this decision.
Alabama law provides primary physical custody of minor children should be based on what is in the best interest of the child. Some ex spouses with multiple minor children have tried to allow some children to live with the dad, and the remaining children with the mom. This practice is disfavored by the courts in Alabama. This is because Alabama law presumes it to be in all of the siblings’ best interests to not be separated, but live together.
Another practice that is disfavored is “split custody” with each parent having the children 50% of the time. Most divorce courts view this arrangement as unstable because it lacks consistency for the children.
In the majority of divorce cases in Houston County, and the rest of Alabama, one parent is given primary physical custody of all of the marriages’ minor children. However, this does NOT mean that the parent with primary physical custody is allowed to make all decisions related to the children and their upbringing. Primary physical custody is different than when one party is granted “sole custody”. Sole custody is when one parent has both the physical custody of the children as well as the sole authority to make decisions for the children. In such a situation, they are not even required to consult the other parent.
The large majority of divorce Orders in Southeast Alabama give the parents “joint legal custody” while one parent maintains “primary physical custody.” Joint legal custody usually means that the children maintain a primary residence with one parent, but each parent has the same ability to make decisions involving the lives of the children.
Typically, the parent that maintains primary physical custody feels that because the children are with them the majority of the time, they get to make all the decisions. However, this is contrary to the intention of a joint custody arrangement. In a joint custody situation, the children’s best interest are believe to have frequent contact with both parents who will make decisions in the children’s best interest. It is also believed that both parents have the same rights and responsibilities when it comes to making important decisions for the children, such as where they go to school, whether they should undergo medical treatment, what church they should attend, etc. If the divorce judge thinks the parents should be able to work together for the children’s best interests, joint custody will probably be ordered. However, if the judge believes that one parent cannot parent effectively based on their history of physical abuse, addiction, or disinterest in the children, they may order sole custody to the other parent.