The cost to file for custody in Alabama varies based on the case’s circumstances. Generally, contested divorces cost more than uncontested divorces, given the shorter timeline involved in most uncontested cases.
If you speak with an Alabama child custody attorney during a free consultation, they can discuss the potential fees involved, so you know how much it costs to file for custody.
Child custody is sometimes a contentious issue between two divorcing spouses during a divorce. In many cases, each parent wants legal rights for their children. Using an attorney when filing for child custody is not mandated by law, but it can prove crucial for your case.
A family law attorney can help you to navigate the process and ensure you take the proper steps to get the child custody agreement you desire.
How Much Does a Child Custody Attorney Cost in Alabama?
In Alabama, the cost of custody filing varies based on your case’s circumstances. If both parties agree independently on all legal matters in the divorce or child custody (an uncontested divorce), the process can prove more affordable than if the parties require mediation or going to court (a contested divorce).
If you work with a lawyer, they should be clear and upfront about costs and fees to expect, so you can know how much it costs to file for child custody in Alabama. Depending on the lawyer’s fee structure, you may need to pay a retainer upfront or hourly fees.
Can I File for Child Custody Without a Lawyer?
Depending on your county, filing for a divorce on your own and seeking child custody independently typically costs between $200 – $300. You can review the do-it-yourself forms available for the purpose from the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts.
Although you can represent yourself in a divorce, it can prove difficult to file for child custody without an attorney. An experienced custody attorney can help you strategize and seek the best possible outcome you desire.
The procedures in a custody filing are complex and can cost you more money in the long run if you make mistakes. Not only can making errors cost you money, they could also cost you your child custody rights. Getting an attorney when filing for child custody can prove imperative because of the process’s complexity. In addition, it can feel devastating to make a mistake that can cost you time with your children.
How an Alabama Child Custody Attorney Can Help
An attorney can guide you through every step of filing for child custody. In addition, they can advocate for you throughout the proceedings and demonstrate why the child custody agreement you seek offers the best choice.
You can see many other benefits when working with a custody lawyer.
The benefits include:
- They stand by your side from start to finish to offer support and legal guidance.
- They work to help protect your financial well-being.
- They can help you explore opportunities and solutions you may not have thought of before.
- They can always advocate for your best interest and work hard so that the courts hear your voice.
- They help you to feel in control during custody hearings and can prepare you so you feel confident during proceedings.
- They can file all forms needed to ensure they are completed correctly and within the proper time frame.
- They can help you to get the proper documentation needed within the allotted time frame if you receive a court summons.
An Alabama custody lawyer understands that this can feel like one of the most difficult times in your life. However, they can do what it takes to help you avoid an unfair result. They can fight for your future and legal rights.
Types of Child Custody Agreements in Alabama
Both parents should work to create and agree on an arrangement the children will benefit the most from. A divorce attorney can help you decide which type of child custody agreement is right for you and your children.
Alabama provides for physical and legal custody.
Physical custody gives the parent the right and obligation to take care of the child or children daily. The children live with one or both parents who have physical custody.
Physical custody arrangements can look like the following:
- Primary physical custody: The child or children will live at the house of the parent with primary physical custody. The courts determine primary physical custody based on several factors. One significant factor is who the children’s primary caregiver was during the marriage. In these cases, the non-custodial parent often has a visitation agreement.
- Joint physical custody: This means both parents share physical custody of the child or children. The parents create a parenting agreement to determine where the children will live and when. With this type of custody agreement, the child or children will switch back and forth, living with both parents.
An attorney can discuss your child custody goals and help you determine the best plan for you and your family. Then, they can fight for you to have the child custody agreement you desire.
Legal custody means that a parent has legal decision-making responsibilities that can affect the children.
Legal decisions the parents can make include:
- Medical care
- Dental care
- Religious instruction
The courts often award legal custody to both parents. However, a parent may not get legal custody if the courts deem them unfit to care for the child or can’t make decisions for the child.
Parents can secure several types of legal custody arrangements.
- Sole legal custody: When one parent has full responsibility to make major decisions for the child or children. In this case, the other parent has no say in these major life decisions.
- Joint legal custody: Both parents share the authority to make major decisions for the child.
The Alabama Judicial System provides information on how child custody arrangements affect child support. In addition, an Alabama attorney can help to ensure you seek the custody agreement you desire.
How the Courts Make Custody Decisions in Alabama
Alabama courts always make custody decisions based on the child or children’s best interests. Therefore, they will always consider joint custody in every case. Although, in every case, if a parent presents evidence that joint custody could harm the child, the courts will consider that.
The courts consider many factors when making child custody decisions in Alabama.
Examples of these factors include:
- If the child will be safe with one or both parents
- The age of the child or children
- The genders of the child or children
- If the parents can cooperate on an agreed-upon child custody arrangements
- The abilities of each parent to meet the needs of the child or children
- The mental and physical health of each parent
If any other information comes forth during the divorce or child custody proceedings, the courts will consider it when making custody decisions.
A child custody attorney has experience advocating for their clients’ right to custody of their children. Therefore, they can fight for you to have a fair custody agreement.
Can I Modify a Child Custody Agreement?
Yes, you can modify child custody agreements in Alabama.
To modify the agreement, you must prove a material change in circumstances warrants the modification. A modification refers to a change to the original agreement. This change can occur months or even years after the courts implemented the original agreement.
Reasons Why Someone Might Need to Modify the Child Custody Agreement
Separated parents may need to modify a child custody agreement for many reasons. To modify the agreement, the parents must prove this serves the child’s best interests.
Examples of reasons to modify the child support agreement include:
- There was a significant change in circumstances since the courts placed the original order. This may include one parent moving out of state, losing a job, or gaining a new source of income. Because of the new circumstances, the current child custody and/or support order doesn’t reflect the child’s best interests.
- One of the parents moved out of state, and the new agreement needs to reflect that change.
- One parent is incarcerated or no longer capable of taking care of the children because of mental health issues, substance abuse, or a parent offers an unfit living situation.
What if Both Parents Agree to the Modification?
If both parents agree to modify the child support agreement, they can file a petition with the courts. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you may receive a modification without a court hearing.
What If One Parent Contests to the Modification?
If one of the parents contest the modification, they must take several more steps. An attorney can help you through the process if you desire to modify your current child support agreement and the other parent disagrees.
The process includes:
- Filing a motion to request the child custody modification
- The co-parent will get served with a summons to appear in court
- Attempting to resolve the issues through mediation
- Attending both the pre-trial and trial
- The judge will make a decision on if the child support agreement is eligible for modification
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing For Custody in Alabama
Child custody cases can often prove daunting and emotionally draining for parents. If you have questions, a family law attorney can help you navigate all the confusion and challenges. They can answer questions such as the following:
What Is Considered the Best Interests of the Child?
Alabama will determine the best interests of the child during child custody proceedings. What constitutes the child’s best interests varies and can look different for each case. It may depend on the child’s age, relationship with a parent, and other factors.
An attorney can demonstrate how the custody arrangement you desire serves the child’s best interests. They can show proof and evidence of why the children need a specific custody arrangement to live healthy and happy lives.
What if the Other Parent Disagrees With the Proposed Custody Arrangement?
Several options exist if the other parent disagrees with the proposed custody arrangement. Mediation typically offers the first step. During mediation, the two parents can resolve issues with a mediator’s guidance. However, this agreement is not binding in court. If the parents can’t agree during mediation, they will have to state their case in court.
If the case goes to court, an attorney can represent you and fight for you to get your desired custody arrangement.
What Steps Do I Need to Take to Prepare for a Custody Hearing?
An Alabama attorney can help you to create a plan before each court appearance. They can inform you of possible outcomes and what might happen during the appearance. A lawyer wants you to feel confident in court and know your legal options.
A lawyer can:
- Help you dress professionally. The courts consider the appearance of both parents and how they carry themselves. The judge might take someone who looks professional more seriously than someone who did not put effort into their appearance for the hearing.
- Inform you of courtroom etiquette. This way, you will have information on how to act in the courtroom. You don’t want to do anything that might draw attention to yourself. A lawyer can help you avoid that.
An attorney can help in many other ways beyond those listed here.
What Should I Know About Custody if My Child Has Special Needs?
The courts do take into consideration if the child has special needs. For example, depending on circumstances, the child could suffer if they have to move back and forth between both parents. The courts will consider this but still make a decision based on what is in the child’s best interest.
For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277 today.
Contact an Alabama Child Custody Lawyer Today for Help
If you need to file for child custody, you might have questions. Family law attorneys commonly receive questions about how much it costs to file for custody in Alabama—and they can explain the answer in greater detail. During your free case evaluation, you can explain your circumstances to our team and get an estimate of how much it could cost. Our firm offers free, no-obligation consultations.