As a parent, you want the best for your child. If you are going through a divorce, figuring out the plan for your child is one of the top priorities. When it comes to child custody and support in Birmingham, Alabama, there are a few things you need to know. Whether you are just starting out as newly divorced co-parents or have been doing it for years, issues and questions are bound to arise on this important topic.
How is Child Custody Determined in Alabama?
Child custody in Alabama is determined by the courts using certain important factors. While the parents may advocate for what they want in terms of child custody, the final decision still rests with the judge. The judge’s main concern is the safety and well-being of the child—not what the parents may prefer as the ideal arrangement. When deciding child custody matters in Alabama, a judge will consider factors such as safety of the home, age of the child, the relationship the child has with each parent individually, and other pertinent factors. While both parents have a legal right to visitation with their child, that does not mean that the judge will grant equal custody rights to both parents. The judge will order whatever they think is best for the child based on the evidence presented by both parents. In situations where one parent is unstable or violent, the judge may order only supervised visitation rights in effort to protect the child without completely severing the bond between the child and parent.
Sole Legal Custody vs. Joint Physical Custody
When a couple first approaches a child custody case, they may hear a few different custody terms used pertaining to their child. Sole legal custody is when one parent has total custody of the child, i.e., the child lives with the custodian parent who makes all legal decisions regarding the child. This type of custody does not mean that the custodian parent can keep the child from seeing the other parent entirely. Each parent has visitation rights to their child (unless the judge has ordered no contact or termination of parental rights has taken place), but the non-custodian parent is not allowed to make legal decisions regarding the child. Joint physical custody means both parents are allowed to make legal decisions. In joint physical custody, the child may live equally with both parents or with one parent more than the other.
What If One Parent Relocates Outside of Alabama?
In the event that one parent relocates out of state, you may need legal counsel regarding the original custody agreement. Once a child custody agreement is in place, the courts expect both parents to uphold the agreement. If the custody agreement is no longer feasible due to a relocation, you may need to file a child custody modification with the courts. This may make it easier for the child to travel across state lines in order to continue having a relationship with both parents. The bottom line is that any changes outside of what the court originally ordered will need to be communicated to avoid any issues of legal concern. It is also important to follow any outlined custody arrangements since it gives you a legal leg to stand on should issues arise later on between you and the other parent.
How is Child Support Determined in Alabama?
Child support is determined based on several factors in order to determine the financial needs of the child. The courts will consider how much each parent makes, the child’s annual needs for health insurance and education, and the daily living expenses of the child in terms of housing, food, clothing, and any other necessary aspects of care. The courts will order the non-custodian parent to pay child support to the custodian parent since they have the child more often. In a situation where both parents have equal custody of the child, the judge may order child support to be handled under case-specific guidelines. The bottom line is that both parents are legally obligated to financially provide for their child, regardless of which parent has the custodian parent role.
What Should I Do If I Cannot Pay Child Support?
In the event that you are unable to pay child support, you may need legal advice to avoid legal ramifications. There are many reasons why someone may fall behind on child support payments—loss of employment, being injured or hospitalized, incarceration, and more. If you know you will not be able to pay the full amount, you may be able to ask for a temporary reduced payment due to financial hardship. An experienced child support lawyer will be able to guide you through the process while answering any questions you may have from a legal standing. It is important to remember that you are still legally obligated to provide for your child, so the child support modification would be temporary until the time of hardship has passed.