Family Law and Divorce Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Have Family Law Questions?

FAQs About Alabama Family Law Issues: Get Your Questions Answered
Below are FAQs regarding family law issues such as divorce, child support, custody, visitation, alimony and general information. If you have additional questions, please call our office at 256-859-7277 to speak with a family attorney or member of our legal team.
 

Divorce

Can I get a divorce in Alabama if I don’t know where my spouse is?
Yes, however, in these situations, notices of divorces must be published in local newspapers for a period of three (3) weeks. Then the divorces can be processed through the court systems. In most cases, default judgments will be awarded to the plaintiffs. Specific relief cannot be granted. This means that you will only be divorced. You will not be awarded custody or any property in a divorce by publication.

What is a pendente lite hearing in a divorce case?
Pendente lite is Latin for “pending litigation” and refers to temporary relief or support the Court can award individuals while their divorce litigations are pending. Pendente lite hearings are set after attorneys file motions for such hearings with the Court. The relief awarded during Pendente lite hearings can often be in effect for a year or longer—or until the divorces are finalized. Normally, during Pendente lite hearings, the Court rules and establishes guidelines on general issues, such as child support and custody, spousal support, and occupancy of the marital home. In addition, the Court may create injunctions against inappropriate misuse of the couples’ assets and harassment from any party. If children are involved, the Court may issue orders concerning the health insurance coverage of the parties’ children and may also forbid overnight visitors of the opposite sex to be in the home while the children are in their father’s or mother’s care.

What is a legal divorce in Alabama?
A legal divorce is a means of terminating a legal marriage contract between two individuals. In Alabama, at the end of the process, a divorce gives each person the right to marry someone else and divides the couple’s assets and debts. In addition, a legal divorce will determine the responsibilities of each party in the care and custody of any children born of the marriage.

How long does an uncontested divorce in Alabama take?
An uncontested divorce involves both spouses’ agreeing to all of the terms of the divorce. Therefore, this route is normally the fastest means to obtain a divorce in Alabama. The length of time for the process to be completed depends on the time taken by an attorney to compose the documents, the time expended to get the signatures of the parties on the documents to be filed and the waiting period for a judge’s signature. After a judge has signed an uncontested divorce in Alabama, the divorce becomes final after thirty (30) days. The best way to accelerate the progression of an uncontested divorce is to hire a qualified attorney to help you through the process.

What is an uncontested divorce in Alabama?
An uncontested divorce in Alabama is one of the most uncomplicated and less expensive means for a married couple to obtain a divorce. The parties have both agreed on all issues connected to the divorce, including debts, assets, and child custody and support. An attorney will compose the legal documents, including the parties’ agreement. The couple will then come to the attorney’s office to review and sign the documents which will then be filed with the court. The divorce will become final very quickly.

At Charlotte Christian Law (CCL), we know that divorce is never easy, even when the process is uncontested. Look at our Uncontested Divorce Checklist. There you will find a checklist that provides you all the information in which you must agree in order to fall under the uncontested category. To read more on this topic, please visit our Alabama Uncontested Divorce page.

If you need assistance, consider scheduling a meeting with a Family lawyer who can finalize your divorce. CCL can help you through the uncontested divorce process during this difficult time. We have been helping families ensure that the divorce process goes smoothly since 2000, and we can help you today. Throughout the state, we are here to show you why we are different. Please give us a call at 256-859-7277 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

How much child support is provided in an Alabama divorce?
In Alabama, child support is based on the combined net income of the parents and how many children each must support. Usually, children are defined as siblings under the age of 19. However, in certain circumstances, child support may be continued until the child has graduated from University. Child support guidelines provide a schedule as the starting point for calculating support.

If you want a quick estimate, just go to this website and fill in your details:
http://alabamalawyers.com/Rent-a-MBA_files/alacsc.htm

Can I get alimony even though my divorce isn’t finalized yet?
Yes! A court can order temporary spousal support while the divorce is pending. Most spousal support is ordered for a specific length of time, usually around the expected time it will take to finalize the divorce.

How will a family law firm help with my divorce or child custody case?
Focused Family Law for North Alabama
The Experience to Help…The Drive to Succeed
At Charlotte Christian Law (CCL) we focus on our clients and their legal problems while concentrating on providing passionate and thoughtful representation to men and women who are experiencing the pain and difficulty of divorce. Charlotte Christian founded the firm in 2000; her pledge is to ensure that every client receives the personal attention they deserve, the legal support they require and the best possible outcomes we can obtain for them. Charlotte and her team of dedicated, hardworking, and experienced team members know that for individuals who are facing most family law matters, the goal is restoring their lives and moving on to brighter futures. Our role is to assist them in reaching that goal.

Planning for Your Future Just Got Easier

At Charlotte Christian Law, we understand that you are dealing with a life-changing decision when your spouse and you decide that you can no longer remain married. We work with you to guide you through the emotional toll of divorce and custody issues. We outline your options and discuss the opportunities that can arise—reconciliation and counseling, judgments from the court or negotiations of settlement agreements that let couples part on their own terms. Making a decision is the first step. With our help, you can be confident that your life can resume, and you can enjoy the life style that once made you happy.

Remember, you are more than data for a statistical study; therefore, your situation should not be processed from a legal “form-book.” Your case should be addressed uniquely and customized to your own set of circumstances. The most important strategy you can employ is to decide to move forward.

We recommend two important steps to proceed with your process:

Put strategies in place to protect yourself IMMEDIATELY.
Retain an attorney to best represent your interests and meet your needs.
We understand that you’re dealing with your husband or wife about a possible separation or divorce can be a terribly devastating experience. One aspect of this experience about which we can assist you is by our providing confidential options and alternatives. We can aid you in employing special arrangements to possibly save your marriage, or we can discuss the alternatives with you and begin the process of strategy building for the next steps.

Choose Your Law Firm Carefully! Who Will Best Meet Your Needs?
You must consider two fundamental factors in choosing a North Alabama law firm to represent you:

1) Will your case be treated uniquely?
Charlotte Christian Law understands that each divorce in Alabama is a unique and individual experience. Therefore, the firm will build a legal road map that is specifically designed to address your own individual circumstances. We develop a strategy and execute it with excellence to allow you to resolve your issues. If necessary, we are prepared to zealously represent you in trial.

2) Inspire your confidence!
Our legal team will inspire your confidence. We will use our experience to guide you through the complex processes of divorce. We have the time, patience and understanding to address your unique situation. We believe that we should be:

  • Inspiring
  • Professional
  • Friendly
  • Available

The attorneys and staff of Charlotte Christian Law will relentlessly pursue and defend your rights, both inside and outside the courtroom. Once we are on your side, we will be:

  • Demanding and forceful
  • Vigorous and assertive
  • Zealous in defending your position
  • Accepting of only what is right for you

Choosing the law firm to represent you during a critical life-changing time is a major decision. Inevitably, the decisions you make during the divorce process will affect you significantly, both immediately and in the future. While these choices and resolutions may sound frightening, they represent fundamental facts and unfortunate realities.

When you consider hiring a law firm, your key main question to potential firms should be “why should I choose your law firm to represent me?” We answer this question!

Divorce situations are unique, and we will want to discuss your specific situation in person to establish that we are the best firm to represent you.

Experience. Creativity. Results.

If you are thinking about divorce, dealing with a custody issue or wondering what the next step is when you have been served with a complaint, we are here to be on your side. From Huntsville to Athens to Fort Payne on the east and elsewhere in between, we are here to show you why we are different. Please give us a call at 256-859-7277 or contact us online.

How do I get a divorce in Alabama?
The idea of divorce may sound simple enough; however, there are quite a few moving parts involved. Couple these with raw emotions and you have an explosive combination for stress and pain. It is possible to file for divorce yourself, although it is usually not advised. Hiring an attorney provides you with an advocate – an expert who is on your side and who will fight for you and your rights. If you would like to try to file for divorce or custody by yourself, we have a self-help section containing helpful links that we can unlock for you. On this page, you can even find information for free legal help through the state if your income qualifies. We know that hiring an attorney to help with your divorce is a big deal. If you would like to obtain the password for our self-help center, speak to one of our experienced and compassionate staff members or a divorce attorney about your case. Please give us a call at 256-859-7277.

Will I have to pay all of my attorney’s fees? Can my spouse be ordered to pay my attorney’s fees?
In Alabama divorce cases, the court has the authority to order a party to pay some, or all, of the attorney’s fees and additional litigation costs of the other spouse. The court desires to ensure that both parties have access to quality legal representation. In other words, the court wants to “level the playing field” so that one party cannot impose a financial advantage over the other. If you think that you cannot afford to pay an attorney, you should still contact one because that may not actually be the case. Your spouse could be ordered to pay your attorney’s fees. You must protect your rights, and in many cases, an attorney can obtain funds from “the other side” so that you can have adequate representation to guarantee your rights are addressed.

Do I need an Alabama Family law lawyer for my divorce?
Even though you think your divorce is not complicated and will involve nominal conflict, hiring an Alabama family law lawyer is highly recommended. Why? Financial statements, personal and real property, custody, child support, and other issues are major points that must be addressed in the correct manner as specified by the court. Specific paperwork will need to be filed with the court, and if those required documents are not correctly composed and do not contain the information required by a particular judge, you may find yourself having to appear before a judge who will address those deficiencies in an ordered court appearance. Inevitably, your mandatory attendance in court will result in prolonging the divorce process as you will then have to re-file the divorce documents. Therefore, retaining an experienced divorce attorney to review your settlement and other documentation is imperative to expedite the divorce process and to ensure that your immediate and future rights are secure.

I want to divorce, but my husband is not willing to agree. What choices do I have?
In most pre-divorce stages, individuals dread the anticipated arguing between their spouses and them in attempts to settle divorce issues. Mediation is an option that couples may pursue through their Divorce Attorneys. In fact, some Alabama judges actually order mediation before they will hear divorce cases. Mediation is simply a process in which a third party, often a Family attorney (or a retired judge) with experience in mediation, listens to the desires of both parties and attempts in an effort to find a middle settling ground. If the parties do reach an agreement, then the mediator or one of the parties’ divorce attorneys will present the settlement of the parties to the Court. Other required documents are then filed with the Court, and the couple will not have to appear in court. If the mediation is unsuccessful, the attorneys and parties will continue with the divorce process that will culminate before a judge.

If you are going through a divorce and think you may need help from a Mediation Attorney, CCL is here to help you. We take the time to understand the facts surrounding your case and can help guide you in making informed decisions. Contact us today at 256-859-7277 for a consultation with our Divorce Attorney, Charlotte Christian.

Will I have to be present in family court for my family law case in Alabama?
Alabama divorce requirements on being present in court: As long as your divorce remains uncontested, you will not be required to make any court appearances. My staff and I will communicate with you throughout the entire process by mail, phone, or email. If necessary, I will set up a video conference with you. You can certainly set up an appointment to see me in my office if you are more comfortable with that type of communication.
If your divorce is contested or if you are involved in a child custody, modification, or other family law case, you will, in all probability, be required to be present during court hearings. I will be present in court with you if that becomes the case. You will never be “alone” to stand before a judge or to respond to an opposing counsel in a courthouse.

My wife and I are in agreement to get a divorce. What is the best way for us to get the divorce finalized quickly? How can I get a divorce quickly in AL if my ex and I are in agreement? Is it possible to get a quick uncontested divorce in Alabama?
Couples who both desire a divorce and are also in agreement as to the terms of a divorce should file an “uncontested divorce” with the court. This process is less expensive and can be completed in a relatively short period of time compared to a divorce that is set before the court that could extend for months, even years. An “uncontested” divorce, in contrast to a “contested” divorce, is one in which both spouses desire a divorce and agree on issues including, but not limited to those, relating to the grounds for the divorce, custody of the children (if any children under the age of 19 are involved), and alimony (if pertinent) as well as a division of all real and personal property. Your hiring an attorney who is knowledgeable of the uncontested divorce documentation needed for filing with the court is highly recommended. After all issues have been resolved and the parties have signed all pertinent documents, the necessary paperwork can be filed with the court. At that time, a judge will review the filing and if all documents are acceptable, he or she will enter a Final Divorce Decree. Neither party will be required to appear in court.

I want an uncontested divorce. What should I do?
The best manner for you to avoid a contested divorce is to arrive at an amicable agreement with your spouse regarding such matters as spousal support, the terms of real and personal property division, and child custody/visitation/support arrangements. If your spouse and you have a “civil” relationship, you should attempt to involve him or her in the divorce process as early as possible. This will ensure that there is no surprise by your actions and will, therefore, be less likely to contest the divorce. When the two of you have an agreement on the terms of your divorce, I advise that you retain an attorney to incorporate the specifics of your agreement into a settlement agreement. He or she will also need to compose other documents needed for your approval and signatures before filing the divorce with the court. The key to the success of any “uncontested” divorce is that the parties are in complete agreement BEFORE an attorney completes the documents necessary to file with the court.

My spouse will not sign the papers for our uncontested divorce. What can I do?
What can I do if my spouse will not sign the uncontested divorce papers?
I assume you are referencing “uncontested” divorce documents. In the best scenario, both parties are absolutely sure that they desire a divorce and agree that they will sign an agreement of the terms that they have discussed. These discussions and agreements should be established BEFORE uncontested documents are composed and are ready for signatures. If you have any doubt that your spouse will not sign, I recommend that you file a complaint for divorce with the court—which is the first step of a “contested” divorce. You can still settle “out of court” at any phase of the contested divorce process.

Your spouse’s failure to sign the uncontested divorce documents could be a waste of your deposited retainer with your lawyer. If the documents have been typed and your spouse refuses to sign them, your next step is to ask your attorney to file an official Complaint for Divorce with the Court. Of course, that will be much more expensive than the “uncontested” route you initiated.

My uncontested divorce has become contested. What happens next?
When an uncontested divorce has become contested, your option is to file a Complaint for Divorce with the Court. In many cases, a divorce may be contested because one of the spouses does not agree with the grounds for divorce or one or more of the agreement terms, including, but not limited to, real and personal property division, child custody/visitation/support, and alimony. When one of the spouses refuses to sign uncontested divorce documents, the divorce becomes “contested,” and the cost for the divorce for both parties increases significantly because of added legal fees and court appearance.

Can I return to my maiden name during my Alabama divorce case?
Generally speaking, you will be able to change your name at the time you file for your divorce or after your divorce decree is issued by the Court.

Alabama law does allow an individual, in conjunction with a divorce case, to take a name other than the current spouse’s last name. Your family lawyer or you should petition for the name change when the divorce complaint is filed or when an answer to your husband’s complaint is filed. If you are filing an uncontested divorce, your name change should be included as one of the settlement terms to which the parties agree.

In the complaint for divorce or the answer, your divorce lawyer or you may petition the court to change your name to either (a) your maiden name, (b) the surname of a prior deceased husband, or (c) the surname of a prior living husband if you have children who have that husband’s surname. The court will issue an order granting the name change at the time of the divorce. You will be charged no additional costs by the court for the name revision if that request is completed at the time of the divorce.

Should you decide after the divorce that you want such a name change, you should present your divorce decree/order to the clerk of court. For a minimal fee (depending on the county), you will be allowed to make one of the name changes noted above.

What is the waiting period for remarriage in Alabama after a divorce decree has been issued?
Waiting Periods:
Alabama law requires a thirty-day (30) waiting period from the filing of the summons and complaint before the Court will issue a final divorce decree. In some cases, judges will sign a Divorce Decree earlier (an interlocutory order), but the divorce will not be final until after the thirty-day (30) waiting period has expired. This situation is quite typical when parties file uncontested divorce documents with the court.

Remarriage:
Under Alabama law, parties cannot remarry until after sixty (60) days have elapsed after the entry of the Judgment for Divorce. If one of the parties appeals the Judgement of Divorce and files the appropriate documents, neither party can remarry—except to each other—pending a resolution of the appeal.

The waiting period and directives about remarrying are noted in Divorce Decrees, such as in the examples below:

  1. Pursuant to Section 30-2-8.1, Code of Alabama, this Decree is interlocutory and is not to be treated as a Final Decree of Divorce until the expiration of thirty (30) days from the date of filing of the summons and complaint herein. This Decree shall become final and the bonds of matrimony now existing between the parties shall be dissolved and the parties each forever divorced from the other, effective the 20th day of February, 2015.
  1. Neither of the parties shall again marry, except to each other, for a period of sixty (60) days after this Decree of Divorce shall become final as provided herein above. If an appeal is taken, then neither party shall again remarry, except to each other, during the dependency of such appeal.

I moved to Alabama recently from another state. Can I get a divorce in Alabama?
Alabama, the residency requirement to obtain a divorce is that one or both parties will have been a resident of Alabama for at least six (6) months at the time of initial filing of the divorce documents. If you have additional questions pertaining to Alabama divorce residency requirements, contact our Huntsville location at 256-859-7277 to speak with a member of our legal team who can schedule an appointment with a family lawyer.

I want to get remarried soon. How long does an Alabama divorce take? What is the timeline?
Your divorce is eligible for a Final Decree after the Court has held the divorce documents in a “waiting” status for thirty (30) days to give the parties a “change our minds” period; after that time has elapsed, the Court will move forward to enter a Final Decree. In some counties, a judge will go ahead and issue a divorce “interlocutory,” which means the divorce will not be final for thirty (30) days after he or she has signed the order. You will not be able to remarry for sixty (60) days–except to each other.

Has your spouse told you to move out after filing for a divorce?
Unless you have been ordered by the court to move from the home or your attorney has advised you to do so in his or her strategy for your case, you should not vacate the premises nor remove your belongings from the marital home. More often than not, moving out is a major strategic mistake in divorce cases. Of course, if you are facing physical abuse while in the home, you certainly need to remove yourself from that situation. Please call Charlotte Christian Law at 256-859-7277 and schedule a consultation before making this decision or any other critical choice that could affect the outcome of your case and, ultimately, your life for years to come.

Is it possible to get an uncontested divorce in Alabama finalized quickly? What is the uncontested divorce process in Alabama?
Couples who both desire a divorce and are also in agreement as to the terms of a divorce should file an “uncontested divorce” with the court. This process is less expensive and can be completed in a relatively short period of time compared to a divorce that is set before the court that could extend for months, even years. An “uncontested” divorce, in contrast to a “contested” divorce, is one in which both spouses desire a divorce and agree on issues including, but not limited to those, relating to the grounds for the divorce, custody of the children (if any children under the age of 19 are involved), and alimony (if pertinent) as well as a division of all real and personal property. Your hiring a divorce attorney who is knowledgeable of the uncontested divorce documentation needed for filing with the court is highly recommended. After all issues have been resolved and the parties have signed all pertinent documents, the necessary paperwork can be filed with the court. At that time, a judge will review the filing and if all documents are acceptable, he or she will enter a Final Divorce Decree. Neither party will be required to appear in court.

How do I serve Alabama divorce papers to an active duty member?
Alabama military divorces have specific state, federal laws and other rules that have to be followed. If your spouse is an active duty military member, he or she must personally be served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action in the same manner in which a civilian individual has to be served in order for Alabama courts to have jurisdiction over the divorce case.

There are a few different options to serve your spouse if he or she lives in a military base:

  1. Your attorney can attempt to serve your spouse via certified mail.
  2. Your attorney can attempt to serve your spouse via a special process server. The special process server would have to follow Army policy and generally if your spouse denied service, a commander in the military would determine whether or not he or she should accept service according to the laws of the state of Alabama. If your spouse continues to refuse to accept service, other alternatives for service then must be used regulations for serving Army personnel on base is set out in the code 32 C.F.R. 516. Many times, military police will have your spouse to actually appear at the PMO for him or her to accept service.
  3. While your spouse is on active duty, you can file for divorce and ask that your spouse be held responsible for not answering; however, The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act allows the Alabama court system to postpone your divorce action during the time that your spouse is on active duty and for a period of up to 60 days after he or she returns from active duty, however, this is generally done during a time while your spouse is actually serving in a war.

Getting service on your military spouse is not impossible but can be difficult and having a divorce attorney well-versed in military law is essential for your own protection. For more information about military divorce, refer to our Military Divorce page or contact us at 256-859-7277 to speak with a military divorce attorney. We have offices in Huntsville and Birmingham Alabama.
 

Child Support

What is the process of modifying child support in Alabama?
Once an Alabama court issues a child support order, can the amount of support that is calculated be changed?

In Alabama, the amount of child support may be modified under certain circumstances through several means. The simplest process is for the parents to agree to a change, but the court must approve even an agreed-upon change in order for the modification to be enforceable.

When no agreement can be reached between the parties concerning child support amounts, the party seeking the change must request a court hearing. During the court appearance, each side is present, usually represented by counsel, and is given opportunities to state his or her reasons for supporting or opposing the proposed modification in child support.

In most cases, the court usually will deny the request for child support modification unless a significant change in circumstances that justifies the change can be shown. These changes include, but are not limited to, a significant increase in either parent’s income through a remarriage or a job change–or a considerable change in the needs of the child or children. Amendments or changes in child support laws, too, may justify a change in previously issued orders. Also, under certain circumstances, an increase in the cost of living can warrant an increase in child support. Commonly, increases connected to child support can be addressed in the original order so that the parties do not need to make repeated court appearances each time a significant change in the cost of living arises.

In the state of Alabama, what are parents’ obligations to their children?

All parents have the responsibility to provide their children with the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, and shelter. This obligation usually ceases when the child is emancipated, when the child graduates from high school, when the child enters the military, or when the child marries, but the support obligation can extend beyond that point if the child is unable to support his or herself. The law generally does not dictate the level of support that is provided when the child lives with both parents, but when, through divorce or other circumstances, the child is living with only one parent, Alabama laws stipulate the amount of financial support the non-custodial parent must provide.

The amount of child support that I receive isn’t enough. What can I do?
Either parent can seek a change in the support amount, but you must claim and prove there’s been a substantial and continuing change since the last support order. You will need to file a ‘Petition to Modify’. A consultation with a Charlotte Christian Law attorney will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

If I have been named and served in a paternity case and I know I am not the father, do I need a lawyer?
If you have been served court documents in a paternity case, hiring a family law attorney is imperative. You need experienced legal support even if you have reason to doubt that you are the biological father. In fact, your failure to challenge the paternity petition could result in your being held responsible for child support obligations even, if later, the paternity has been disproved.

I can’t afford child support under the current order. What can I do?
Either parent can seek a change in the support amount, but you must claim and prove there’s been a substantial and continuing change since the last support order. You will need to file a ‘Petition to Modify’. A consultation with a Charlotte Christian Law attorney will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

Do I have to take a paternity test in order to get child support in Alabama?
When couples are unmarried, establishing paternity often becomes a factor determining the obligations and rights of both parents, including child support. Sometimes, a mother does not want to give the father contact, sometimes a father refuses to acknowledge paternity. Once paternity is established, both parents have equal rights and obligations to the child. This means that a father that wants contact with his child, where the mother is disallowing it, will have to establish paternity in order to establish his rights and obligations. Child support is part of the obligation a father gains in establishing paternity.

If it is the father refusing to acknowledge the child as his, then the mother must bring a paternity action in order to receive child support, which also gives the father rights to custody and visitation.

When someone denies paternity, mother or father, a paternity test will be administered, which is a genetic test using DNA. This is a simple, non-invasive test with a cheek swab. The result of the test is given in a percentage form of likelihood that the father is the parent. A 95% or higher result is referred to as a “hot test,” meaning that this person in all likelihood, is the father. Tests are often 99.8 or 99.9%. On those, there is no reasonable doubt of the parentage. The “hot” test result does not mean that the result cannot be challenged under certain circumstances, for technical or other reasons, but the closer the number is to 100%, the less likely a contest will be successful.

Under Alabama’s Uniform Parentage Act, paternity actions must be filed prior to the child’s 19th birthday with a court where the father, mother or the child lives. If paternity is established through DNA testing, the father of a child gains the rights and responsibilities of a father whose child is born in wedlock or whose paternity is otherwise established at birth. If DNA testing does not determine a biological link between the presumed father and the child, the court releases the presumed father from legal responsibility. Should this happen, our lawyers continue to help you determine the paternity of your child.
 

Custody

How do I get custody of my children?
The most important way to get custody of your child / children is to be honest with them, and support them. Being a great parent is not always easy during a divorce, but it is important to recognize that every action or decision concerning the divorce may affect the child.

In Alabama, the Judge will make child custody decisions solely based on what they believe is in the best interest and welfare of the child or children. Alabama awards custody to either spouse, regardless of age and gender of the children, and gives no preference to mothers or fathers. Your desire to have your child / children with you is an important factor. Here are some other factors that will be considered:

  • Age, emotional, social, moral, material and educational needs of each child
  • The home environment offered by each parent
  • The characteristics of each parent, including age, character, stability, mental and physical health
  • The capacity and interest of each parent to provide for the emotional, social, moral, and educational needs of the children
  • The relationship between each child and each parent
  • The preference of each child, if the child is deemed of sufficient age and maturity
  • Expert witnesses / independent investigator reports and recommendations

Charlotte Christian, our Child Custody Attorney, is knowledgeable and has handled a plethora of child custody cases in Alabama. CCL is an Alabama Family Law firm that you can trust. We are responsive, efficient, and will strive to bring out the most desirable outcome in your case while setting forth strategies in moving forward that are in the best interest of your child. Contact us today for a consultation at 256-859-7277 or schedule an appointment with us online.

My child does not want to stay with me. Will that impact the judge’s decision?
The Judge will seriously consider the preference of a child for one parent over the other, but it will not be the deciding one. An older and more mature a child is more likely to have their preferences included in deciding custody. Net, the desires of a child will not ultimately sway a judge. He will be considering many factors including:

  • Age, emotional, social, moral, material and educational needs of each child
  • The home environment offered by each parent.
  • The characteristics of each parent, including age, character, stability, mental and physical health.
  • The capacity and interest of each parent to provide for the emotional, social, moral, and educational needs of the children.
  • The relationship between each child and each parent.
  • The preference of each child, if the child is deemed of sufficient age and maturity.
  • Expert witnesses / independent investigator reports and recommendations.

What is the difference between sole and joint custody?
‘Sole custody’ means one parent makes all the key decisions affecting the child, and the child lives with one parent. ‘Joint custody’ means both parents make all the key decisions affecting the child, and the child lives with both parents, although not necessarily for an equal period of time. In Alabama, ‘joint custody’ is preferred.

‘Physical custody’ refers to whom the children live with and legal custody refers to each of the parent’s right to make decisions regarding the child’s care. Therefore, it is common for one spouse to have physical custody (child’s primary residence) with the other spouse to have physical visitation rights (e.g. child resides with them every other week-end). A consultation with a Charlotte Christian Law attorney will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

My ex wants to move my children out of state. I live in Alabama. Can this be done?
Alabama has a statute governing relocation. A custodial parent who is thinking about moving away must give notice to the other parent. You have the right to object to the move and to schedule a hearing on the issue. The law presumes in most cases a move isn’t in the best interest of the child. A consultation with a Charlotte Christian Law attorney will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

Can my current spouse get custody of previous children?
Unlikely. A child’s natural parent has the primary right to the custody of that child. The only way you could lose custody would be if it were proven that you were an unfit parent (e.g. neglect or abuse).

My ex wants to change the visitation schedule frequently. Is there anything I can do?
Absolutely! Alabama has a ‘rule of repose’ when it comes to custodial arrangements for children. That means any changes to the agreement defined by the Court must be requested, and approved, prior to implementation. To get approval, your ex must prove to the Judge that the changes they have proposed will be in the child’s best interests. Moreover, the positive good associated with the change must more than offset any disruptive effects caused by changing the child’s routine. Frequent disruptions are generally seen in a very negative light. A consultation with a Charlotte Christian Law attorney will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

Do I need a family attorney for my child custody case in Alabama?
Cases dealing with child custody issues are quite complicated. Therefore, finding and retaining an experienced family law attorney to assist you with your case is imperative to your being awarded the outcomes you desire and one that is in the best interest of your child.

How will a judge make decisions about child custody in Alabama?
Alabama Child Custody & Factors a Family Judge Will Consider: In child custody cases, judges make decisions and awards based on what they believe is in the best interest of the child or children. Some of the factors upon which a judge will base his decisions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The environments of the homes offered by each party
  • The emotional, social, moral, and educational needs of the child
  • The parent-child relationship between the child and each of the parties
  • The mental stability and capability of each parent (including mental illnesses or drug use)
  • The history of any domestic violence
  • The safety of the child
  • The wishes of the child if he or she is old enough (and mature enough) to give a preference

Where should I file for child custody in Alabama?
In Alabama, you can file for custody in the county in which the child has lived with a parent or guardian for at least the last six (6) consecutive months. If your child has temporarily been absent from his “home county/state,” that situation does not affect the six-month calculation. If your child is less than six (6) months old, the “home county/state” is usually the one where the child has lived from birth. Exceptions to the general rules do exist so each case’s circumstances should be reviewed by an experienced family law attorney.

If your child and you have recently moved to Alabama, you may not be able to file for custody until you have lived here for at least six (6) months. Also, if a prior court order for custody is in effect, you may have to file in that same court for future custody issues. In some cases, however, jurisdiction, can be transferred. Again, getting advice concerning your particular situation from an attorney is advised.

If more than one state is involved—for example if the child has moved across state lines or if the other parent is in a different state—the case becomes much more complicated. Therefore, as in all custody cases, finding an attorney to assist you in determining which court (jurisdiction) is active is imperative.

If you are attempting to acquire temporary or “emergency” custody in Alabama after moving from another state, you can do so if the child is present in the state of Alabama and if the child has been abandoned or needs immediate emergency protection from abuse or mistreatment. Obtaining emergency custody is not an easy task, so, again, speak with a family law attorney before you file and custody petitions with the clerk of a court. The specifics of a custody case dictate the manner in which you should proceed. Please consult a Child Custody Attorney and discuss the details of your custody case before moving forward. For more info, refer to Alabama Child Custody.

What are the positive and negative aspects of initiating a custody case?
Individuals choose not to file custody case for several reasons. Some decide not to pursue a custody order because they do not want the court to become involved in their family matters. Some parents make an “informal” verbal agreement that addresses the issues of custody adequately for them. Other parents perceive going to court will only provoke the other parent and, consequently, the children will suffer the consequences. They may also believe that if a custody case is started, the other parent might actually “fight” for more custody or visitation privileges than they had previously executed. In some cases, mothers may not need to file for custody if the child’s father’s paternity has not yet been legally verified and established.

Receiving a custody order from a court, however, can give a parent certain legal rights which include, but are not limited to, the right to make decisions about your child and/or the right to residency (having the child live with you). Without a custody order, your having these legal rights may not be possible—even if you are the parent who takes care of the child daily. However, if you file for custody, the other parent has the right to request the same rights and a judge will make the final custody determination.

Some people are under the incorrect assumption that if they file a custody case and are awarded a custody order, they will automatically receive child support. That is not true. A custody order will not inevitably give you child support. An experienced family law attorney can assist you with both the child custody and child support issues.

Should I initiate a court case to ask that visitation be supervised?
If you are presently involved in a case in which the other parent has filed a custody case and you are concerned about the safety of your child during a scheduled visitation, absolutely, you should request supervised visitations. However, be prepared to provide information and proof that validate your concerns.

If you are not involved in an active custody case and are considering bringing one in which you are seeking supervised visitation before the court, seek legal advice from an established family law attorney before you file any documents. A family law attorney will review what evidence you have to prove that the visitations should be supervised and how long those supervised visits would last—all based on the facts connected to your case.

In most cases, supervised visitation is only a temporary measure. Depending on the county in Alabama, a judge may ask a professional to observe the parent during supervised visitation or the visits may be monitored by a relative for a certain amount of time. If no obvious problems are noted, in most cases, the visits may likely become unsupervised. In some cases, at the end of a case involving visitation in which supervised visitation is requested, the other parent is awarded more frequent and/or longer visitation periods than he or she had before the court case began—and could also be awarded some form of custody.

To protect your child from immediate danger of an “abusive” parent, certainly, initiating a case to ask for custody and supervised visitation is appropriate. However, to pursue what action is in your best interest and what route will adequately protect your child, consult a well-established family law attorney for assistance in evaluating your particular situation.

We have family law offices in Huntsville and Birmingham, Alabama and provide family law services throughout the state. For an appointment with a family law attorney, contact our offices at 256-859-7277. For more information, refer to our Child Visitation & Custody page.

I have an out-of-state child custody case. How is this handled in Alabama?
There are mechanisms in place that allow enforcement of child support orders of another state, called “foreign” support orders, without registering the order. The party seeking to enforce the order would send specified information, including a certified copy of the order, to the proper support agency in Alabama. The agency will review and documents and decide if it can enforce the order by administrative procedures, avoiding the need to register the order. If they can, and the other party agrees, then there is no need to register the order, if the other side does not agree to the administrative enforcement, then it must be registered in order to be enforced. This is not the same if one is seeking to modify the order in some way.

Registration for enforcement is accomplished by sending a specified list of documents, including two certified copies of the support order, to the appropriate court. The court, upon receipt, will file the order as a foreign judgment. To act upon the order, there will need to be an action commenced to enforce the order, at which point the opponent will have the opportunity to contest the registration of the order. The basis for contesting the enforcement of the registered order is that the court issuing the order did not have jurisdiction to do so. The order is registered upon filing, allowing the court only the power to enforce the order. With this form of registration, the court may not modify the order.

For modification of a foreign child support order, the process is different, not in the registering itself, but in the court’s authority to modify the registered order. The determination is based, in part, upon the current residences of the parties and child and whether there is any further connection with the issuing state. It is a far more complicated determination than mere enforcement. And, once Alabama modifies an order, then Alabama courts become the issuing state for the order, with continuing jurisdiction. This issue often comes up with military families, or former spouses of service members.

There is also an interstate act for addressing child support orders when the parties are in different states, which does not require the need for registering the support order at all. Surely the interstate questions are more complex than in state matters. If you need help with child custody, contact our office at 256-859-7277 to speak with our family attorney (phone or in-person appointments are available). We have offices located in Huntsville & Birmingham, Alabama.
 

Visitation

Can I visit my child more?
Yes. Once a custody order is signed by the Judge both parents are bound by it. However, Judges have lots of flexibility to provide for visitation rights. Arrangements can vary from a set schedule to a general order for visits at reasonable times and places. You need to file a ‘Petition for Modification’ to change a custody or visitation order. A consultation with a Charlotte Christian Law attorney will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

Child Visitation & Parental Rights in Alabama
Regardless of bad situations in which parents may have been involved or unwise choices parents may have made in the past, most parents have legal rights to visit their children if such visitations do not place them in any danger. Certainly, child visitation is the most significant legal step for parents’ staying in touch, and being a part of, their children’s lives.

In most cases, a parent can remain a non-custodial parent but can still visit his or her child on a regular visitation schedule. The best way for a parent to enforce scheduled time with his or her child or children is to propose an agreement that can be approved and ordered by the court.

Visitation schedules are determined, like all other domestic issues involving children, in accordance with “the best interests of the child” in mind. In most situations, parents’ visiting with their children frequently, and consistently continuing to do so, is extremely important in building good parent-child relationships.

An experienced family law attorney can assist with drafting an agreement that will address parents’ desires for visitation schedules with their children. Obtaining a court order which will include those visitation terms will help protect parents who wish to spend time with their children. That order will ensure that the custodial parent is not in total control of the situation. Children need quality time with both parents!

We have law offices in Huntsville and Birmingham, Alabama. To speak with a family attorney, schedule an appointment online or contact our office at 256-859-7277.
 

Alimony

Will I get alimony in Alabama?
In Alabama, you can get alimony, but only if the Judge deems that it is needed. Alimony awards are not usually permanent. Courts grant alimony typically where one spouse has depended on the other for support in a long-term marriage. There is no specific formula in Alabama for setting the amount of alimony. The amount of alimony is at the discretion of the trial Judge.

Generally, in Alabama, alimony is granted only when:
1) One spouse shows need, and
2) The other spouse has the ability to pay.
A consultation with an attorney at Charlotte Christian Law will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

What are the factors which determine how much alimony is given, and for how long?
In Alabama, the Judge will look at a number of factors to determine if, how much, and for how long, alimony will be given. This includes:
• Each spouse’s relative earnings and earning capacities.
• Each spouse’s age and health.
• Each spouse’s relative assets and liabilities.
• Each spouse’s sources of income, including medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
• Each spouse’s potential inheritances.
• The property brought into the marriage by either spouse.
• Length of the marriage, and each spouse’s role.
• The extent to which each spouse’s earning power, expenses or financial obligations are affected with custody of a minor child.
• The standard of living during the marriage.
• Each spouse’s education, and the time and resources needed for the spouse receiving alimony to gain education and training to return to work.
• Each spouse’s contribution in homemaking.
• Needs of each spouse post the divorce.

We are knowledgeable of divorce and alimony laws and have handled many cases involving alimony in Alabama. If you need help understanding your options or to determine the best way to proceed in your case, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you. Contact us to schedule a consultation with our Alabama Alimony Attorney at 256-859-7277 or schedule an appointment online.

My husband left and I’m unable to support myself because I’ve been a stay-at-home mom/wife. Can I get alimony?
Possibly. You may be entitled to rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is awarded when a spouse needs time and resources to transition back into the job market. A consultation with Charlotte Christian Law will get you the advice you need on the best way to proceed in your individual case.

What are the factors that Alabama family courts will consider before issuing alimony?
Alimony Determination Alabama: If you are a dependent spouse, you may be entitled to spousal support as ordered in the divorce decree. Spousal support determinations can be complex because of the substantial discretion given to the court. You will be at an advantage to retain an experienced family law attorney who can present your case for (or against) spousal support effectually. The courts will consider a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The range of each parties’ earning ability
  • The customary standard of living established during the marriage
  • The earnings and money-making skills of each party
  • The amount of devoted time to domestic duties and child rearing at the expense of a party’s career pursuits
  • The ability of the party who has the higher earnings to pay support
  • The obligations and assets, including separate property, held by both parties
  • The length of a marriage
  • The ages of the parties
  • The ability of the supported spouse to obtain lucrative employment
  • The need of a time period required for the supported spouse to pursue further education or training to gain employment for support
  • A documented history of domestic violence in the marriage

An experienced family law attorney will review and evaluate the factors listed above to advise you as to the possibility of your entitlement to spousal support. Then he or she will begin the process of negotiating on your behalf for that support. We provide family law representation throughout the state of Alabama and have law offices located in Huntsville and Birmingham. To discuss spousal support, schedule an appointment or call our office at 256-859-7277.
 

General Info

If I call CCL, can I speak to a family lawyer to ask specific questions pertaining to my case?
You can certainly speak to a Family Law Lawyer when you call our firm. Charlotte Christian Law welcomes individuals to call the firm at 256-859-7277. Initially, all potential clients will speak with one of the firm’s client intake staff members or an available paralegal. That intake specialist or legal assistant will listen to your story, take your contact information, and then relay the details of your situation to the Family Law Lawyer. You can then expect a return call from one of the firm’s intake persons or a Family Attorney.

Will I need to visit your office for a consultation or conference?
You will not be required to meet with us in office office unless you prefer a consultation in person. Office visits are not required at any time. In fact, much of our client advisement time is devoted to telephone consults and/or video conferences with my clients. Our staff is always available by phone or email for clients to ask questions or for them to send pertinent case information. Much of the communication concerning documents needed for your family law case can be completed by mail, email, fax or your personal client case portal access. Documents requiring a signature can be mailed to you. You will be given explanations and clear instructions in regards to those documents’ content and the need for your signature.

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