Divorces can feel very painful. They entail the dissolution of the previous life that you and your partner once shared. For those who raised children, this pain can lead to disagreements. Few people want to surrender custody of their children.
Circuit courts frequently handle custody negotiations, and this entails many complicated legal procedures. If you’re involved in a custody disagreement or need assistance with another family law matter, our law offices can help. An Athens child custody lawyer from The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates can represent you as you fight for custody of your child.
Table of Contents
- What Is Custody?
- How Do Parents or Courts Determine Custody?
- How Does Custody Affect Child Support?
- How Can a Child Custody Lawyer From Our Firm Help?
- Contact a Athens Child Custody Lawyer Today
What Is Custody?
Married parents share custody of their children, meaning they both share responsibility for raising and housing them. Divorces inherently jeopardize this custody arrangement. With parents going their separate ways, they need to find a way to agree on who takes the kids.
For a free legal consultation with a child custody lawyer serving Athens, call (256) 859-7277
Types of Custody
Child custody includes two elements: physical and legal custody.
- Physical: Physical custody refers to where a child lives after a divorce. For example, if one partner has sole physical custody, their child or children will only live with them. You can share this type of custody, meaning the child or children split their time between two different households.
- Legal: Legal custody permits a parent to make consequential decisions about their child’s life, including medical operations, education, and more. Like physical custody, two parents can share legal custody.
How Do Parents or Courts Determine Custody?
It depends. If a couple cannot agree regarding custody, the judge must determine custody. Under Alabama law, judges must assure that children can continue to have contact with both of their parents when it serves the children’s best interests to do so. The courts also encourage both parents to share all the requirements of raising children after the divorce.
To uphold this commitment, a judge will review the following information about you and your child:
- The ages of your children
- You and your partner’s ability to financially support a child
- Past instances of domestic violence or abuse
- The preference of the child, provided they are mature enough to express a preference
- The interpersonal relationship between you, your child, and your partner
- Any other information relevant to the decision
An Athens child custody lawyer from our firm can work to protect your interests if your case involves a judicial ruling. We can gather evidence and argue your case before a circuit court judge.
Athens Child Custody Lawyer Near Me(256) 859-7277
What if I Want to Avoid a Judge Ruling on Child Custody?
You’ll need to effectively cooperate with your partner to avoid a judicial child custody ruling.
It’s possible to settle outside of court if:
- You and your partner come to a decision: Divorces allow the parties in contention to communicate with one another. Other types of trials do not usually allow this type of communication. You can use this communication channel to create a custody plan with your partner.
- You rely on your legal advisor: Custody negotiations can prove exhausting. If you’d like to avoid going over the specifics of your disagreements with your partner, you can defer to your lawyer. You have the right to legal counsel during a divorce.
- You and your spouse use mediation: Mediation provides divorcees with a third-party mediator who can facilitate a healthy discussion environment. However, this mediator can’t make or ratify your custody decision for you.
Notably, these processes can result in a custody decision, but they can’t finalize it. Once you build a reasonable parenting plan with your partner, you must deliver this plan to a circuit court judge. They’ll review the plan and ensure it upholds the child’s well-being. If it passes their standards check, they’ll sign it into law.
How Does Domestic Violence Impact Child Custody?
If a parent has a domestic violence conviction, they may not receive custody rights. Alabama law prioritizes children’s well-being and safety and will evaluate the case’s evidence to determine the best outcome for the children.
The court will examine evidence of domestic violence allegations, though. With the help of a custody lawyer, you may still qualify for custody, depending on the types of charges on your record.
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Are Child Custody Orders Permanent?
No, child custody orders do not necessarily last forever. You can request a modification from the court. The rules for child custody modification were established in 1984 by a landmark case. The state refers to this framework as the McLendon standard.
For a successful modification request, you need to prove that:
- A custody modification will benefit the child.
- The circumstances of your or your partner’s life changed since your initial custody orders.
- The benefits of altering custody will outweigh its costs.
Our team can assist you in negotiating altered custody orders.
How Does Custody Affect Child Support?
Child support, sometimes confused with alimony, refers to a type of payment that one partner pays to another.
These payments have the singular purpose of covering a child’s:
- Housing costs
- Medical expenses
- Other costs associated with raising a child
How Does Child Support Work?
The court determines child support payments through a process called establishment. During establishment, a court will review the financial information of both parents. After analyzing these finances, the court can construct a support agreement. The quickest way to establish child support is through a voluntary agreement. In a voluntary agreement, both parents sign a support order.
Parents can have either a custodial or noncustodial role within a child custody agreement:
- Custodial: A custodial parent has sole physical custody over the child. They do not have to pay child support because the court assumes they regularly pay childcare costs.
- Noncustodial: Noncustodial parents do not have sole physical custody. This means they do not make day-to-day purchases for the child’s needs. A child support order will delegate a portion of their income towards financing their child’s needs.
The Alabama courts note that the guidelines for establishing child support can adjust based on the circumstances. For example, parents who have joint custody over their children may deviate from the standard model. Calculating child support payments involves greater complexity than we can adequately detail here. However, in addition to the costs of raising a child, the courts may consider additional factors, like transportation expenses.
Legal action could also prove necessary to enforce child support orders. The Child Support Enforcement Program will work with a state-appointed attorney during these cases. In addition, you and your partner may need to testify about your finances and ability to support your child.
What if I Cannot Locate My Partner?
The courts have processes if your noncustodial partner does not live in Alabama. In addition, they can communicate with agencies housed in the state you suspect they live in.
The other parent can receive a child support order once the court identifies their current location. Unfortunately, this process can prove more time-consuming than a straightforward order.
Can You Modify Child Support Payments?
Yes, like custody, you can modify child support payments.
To do so, you must show evidence of:
- The material circumstances of the child changed, or any changes to the medical care needs of the child.
- A partner now makes less money and therefore cannot make child support payments.
The Department of Human Resources reviews child support orders every 36 months by a relevant agency.
Are Child Support Orders Enforced?
Yes, the state can enforce child support orders in one of three ways:
- Legal action: If a partner refuses to make child support payments, they could be in contempt of court. If they continue to fail to make these payments, they could go to jail.
- Income withholdings: Alabama state law requires that child support orders include income withholdings. This process works by directly removing a portion of a noncustodial partner’s income from their paychecks, unemployment pay, or workers’ compensation.
- Failure to appear: If your partner fails to appear in court for a child support hearing, they may face arrest.
How Can a Child Custody Lawyer From Our Firm Help?
Our team recognizes the importance of custody disagreements. You likely face stress and worry as you face child custody determinations, but we will treat your case with compassion and understanding. Our founder, Charlotte Christian, lives and practices law in Alabama. As an Alabama-born lawyer, she is committed to supporting Alabama residents through their difficulties with family law.
Charlotte Christian takes a unique approach to legal matters, prioritizing the well-being of her clients. The rest of the team reflects this commitment. We’re familiar with the peculiarities of custody law and can stand by you through every step.
Our previous clients made these comments about working with The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates:
- The lawyers at Charlotte Christian are tenacious, knowledgeable, and understand how to get results.
- They would continue to rely on our services for future legal needs.
- Charlotte Christian puts in significant work to help clients.
- Charlotte and the attorneys at Charlotte Christian care deeply about their clients.
- They would recommend our firm to others.
We are ready to help you handle all of the ins and outs of custody arrangements and divorce proceedings.
We Can Assist With Child Custody and Divorce Proceedings
Our team can assist you with child custody, child support, and standard divorce proceedings.
Filing Your Initial Divorce
Divorces typically begin with a divorce complaint.
To file a complaint, you (or we) will need to gather:
- The reasons for filing a divorce, especially if you pursue a fault divorce
- The names of your partner and your children
- The ages of you, your partner, and your children
- The date and location of your marriage
- The date of your separation if you no longer live with your partner
- Proof of residency
In addition to gathering this information, you must meet Alabama’s divorce residency requirements. In most cases, you’ll need to show that you lived in Alabama for at least six months.
Some divorces involve minimal documents, whereas others involve a large amount of paperwork. Your divorce might require financial affidavits, child custody plans, and restraining orders. Our team can collect the documents.
Once you have your documentation, we can serve your divorce complaint to your spouse. This initiates the divorce process. If you receive a complaint, you must respond within 30 days. If you don’t, your partner could file a divorce-by-default. In a divorce-by-default, the party that failed to respond to a divorce complaint cannot provide input on the terms of separation. In a divorce-by-default, the courts could establish custody without your say.
Grounds for Divorce
Two types of divorce grounds exist in Alabama: fault and no-fault.
A few common types of fault-based divorce grounds include:
- Drug addiction
- Pregnancy outside of the marriage
- Imprisonment for two or more years
- Illegal activity
In a fault-based divorce, you need evidence demonstrating one of the above activities. No-fault divorces don’t require this type of evidence, though.
In a no-fault divorce, you can seek a separation because:
- You and your partner have incompatible personalities.
- The marriage suffered from an irretrievable breakdown.
Each type of divorce confers its benefits. For example, no-fault divorces typically progress faster and with less cost involved. In addition, it may prove easier to agree with your partner if they haven’t wronged you somehow.
However, if your partner did wrong you in some way, this information can help determine custody or alimony. Our team can advise you on your best options. We’ll explain which type of divorce makes the most sense for your situation. Every divorce comes with unique circumstances, and we can tailor our services to your needs.
Hire Our Athens Child Custody Lawyer Team
Divorces don’t just involve legal disagreements and negotiations. They also involve personal matters, like finding a new home, explaining your divorce to your children, managing shared custody, maintaining your relationship with your ex-partner, and ensuring your children’s care and well-being. These matters deserve 100 percent of your energy.
With The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates’s help, you can focus less on the legal side of your divorce and instead dedicate your time to supporting your family.
We understand that family legal matters can feel difficult or even overwhelming, but don’t hesitate to call our firm’s Athens office for your confidential, no-obligation case evaluation. We’re committed to guiding our clients through the divorce process with compassion and care. We can discuss payment, answer questions, and prepare you for child custody negotiations.
The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates Athens Office Location:213 South Jefferson Street
Athens, AL 35612