If you are considering filing for child custody or divorce, you do not have to try to manage your case on your own. Having someone guide you through the process from start to finish makes it easier to ensure others involved hear your voice.
A Huntsville child custody lawyer from Charlotte Christian Law provides confidential, no-obligation evaluations. You can get answers to your questions and learn more about the representation we provide during divorce and child custody disputes. Our team understands that you could face many difficulties at this time. Let us help you navigate the process and fight for the best outcome for you and your children. Call us today.
Table of Contents
- Understanding the Elements of Child Custody in Alabama
- Alabama Law Requires Judges to Consider Joint Custody
- What Factors Do Judges Consider When Determining Child Custody?
- Huntsville Child Custody Modifications
- Our Firm Can Help You Fight for Child Support
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Contact a Huntsville Child Custody Lawyer Today
Understanding the Elements of Child Custody in Alabama
Alabama custody arrangements come in two basic forms: sole and joint. Almost all cases involve joint legal custody. Sole custody only occurs when the circumstances show that one parent endangers the child or cannot adequately care for the child.
Two things parents must consider when thinking about custody of their children during a divorce or dispute include:
Legal custody involves making decisions for your child and having legal guardianship. This includes education, medical care, religious upbringing, and other major topics. Alabama courts usually award joint legal custody, with one parent having the final say. However, both parents get an opinion and must consider how the other feels about these topics.
Physical custody relates to where the child lives and who provides day-to-day care. Madison County courts usually divide this responsibility, as well. One parent serves as the primary physical custodian, while the other gets ample visitation with the child. The parenting plan outlines how this visitation schedule works.
Alabama Law Requires Judges to Consider Joint Custody
Alabama law requires judges hearing custody cases to consider joint custody as long as this meets the child’s safety needs. This arrangement includes shared decision-making and shared physical custody. The plan for visitation with the non-primary parent must provide reasonable time during weekends, school breaks, holidays, and other times of the year.
These laws also require one parent to pay child support in almost every case. Alabama has worksheets and tables to calculate how much the primary physical custodian receives each month from the child’s other parent.
This calculation considers:
- Each parent’s gross income
- The number of children who require support (birth to 19)
- Other child support obligations
- The cost of childcare, insurance, and medical care costs
What Factors Do Judges Consider When Determining Child Custody?
Alabama law determines how judges decide child custody. When the case goes to trial, the judge hears evidence from both sides regarding where they believe the child should live and why. They weigh this evidence based on the factors included in the law and decide on legal and physical custody and a visitation schedule.
Judges may consider:
- The established routine and relationship between parent and child
- Which parent currently serves as the primary caregiver, if either
- The mental, emotional, physical, and financial health of each parent
- Where the child will live with each parent and others in the household
- The child’s age and gender, since older children are more likely to need more support from their same-gender parent
- The child’s preference, if the judge believes they are mature enough
- Any assessments or testimony from professionals such as social workers, therapists, or guidance counselors
- Which parent best allows the child to remain in their current school, activities, and community
- Any history of violence, abuse, or neglect involving either parent
The judge will also consider any other relevant details in the case. The goal is to create a plan to allow the child to thrive while maintaining strong relationships with both parents.
Huntsville Child Custody Modifications
Our lawyers also represent families in Huntsville child custody modifications. As time passes, circumstances often change. A change in children’s needs, parents’ jobs, or other factors may necessitate a modification of a child custody agreement or order. Alabama law provides for this. However, this proves easiest when the parents agree. In that case, they would file an uncontested petition to modify. However, you could also face a contested petition.
If you request it, the court may alter:
How Can I Get a Modification?
To get a modification, you must show:
- A material change in circumstances occurred. In other words, something significant changed since the court ordered the current plan.
- This change makes it difficult, impossible, or imprudent to follow the current orders.
- A new plan will better serve the child or children.
Examples of a material change will vary depending on your unique circumstances. We may review your case and explain if we believe the court might approve your modification request.
Some common reasons why parents ask for an altered arrangement or custody order include:
- The child’s needs changed as they grew up.
- The parent’s schedule or job changed.
- One parent needed to move out of state.
- The child now has special medical, emotional, or mental health needs.
- One parent faces illness or other serious limitations and cannot care for the child.
- The income of one or both parents changed significantly.
The court almost always grants this request if the parents file an uncontested petition to modify custody or visitation. However, you may want to work with an attorney to ensure you navigate this process and submit all paperwork properly.
What if I Believe My Child Faces Danger?
If your child faces immediate physical danger, dial 911. However, most cases do not involve life-threatening physical abuse. A child may still feel unsafe with their other parent, though, even in non-life-threatening circumstances.
We encourage you to contact us immediately if you believe the other parent puts your child in danger in their care. We may request temporary orders while preparing a petition to modify and build a case to support sole custody or stop visitation. You can count on our team to take your concerns seriously and fight to protect your child’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Charlotte Christian Law Fights for Your Children’s Best Interests
At Charlotte Christian Law, our Alabama child custody and divorce lawyers contend with these cases every day. We know how to navigate the process, build a case, and fight for our client’s best interests. We can help you get a decree and orders, modify an order, or negotiate an agreement with the other parent.
We know you face many challenges at this time. However, you likely know the importance of fighting for your child and their best interests. We provide strong evidence to support our client’s desired outcome and ensure all involved recognize and listen to their point of view. Our team understands this and works to get the best possible outcome in your case based on the circumstances.
We are familiar with the courts, judges, and courthouses in Madison County and Limestone County. Our attorneys work with clients in and around Huntsville, protecting them and their children from unfair legal decisions. We represent our clients to their spouses, the other attorneys, and the judges throughout the process, guiding the client through each step from start to finish. You do not have to do this alone.
For a free legal consultation with a child custody lawyer serving Huntsville, call (256) 859-7277
We Can Help You Secure a Paternity Test
There are times where it’s necessary to take a paternity test to prove you have parental rights or to seek child support. Often when this happens, the other party may attempt to delay taking a test or try to prevent one at all.
Sadly, there are also cases where people get wrongfully sued for child support. A former spouse or partner could seek support for a child that isn’t yours. In this case, a paternity test can prove you’re not the parent (and, therefore, not liable for child support payments).
In either case, Charlotte Christian Law can help you in:
- Seeking a court-ordered paternity test to enforce your parental rights
- Providing you with the proof you need to be released from state-mandated child support payments
Our Firm Can Help You Fight for Child Support
It’s no secret that raising children can be an expensive proposition. If you’re a custodial parent, you might need child support from your former spouse. This can be the case even if you’re not a custodial parent.
If you were not the breadwinner in your marriage, but you need child support, Charlotte Christian Law can help get what you need. Even if your former spouse claims not to have funds, we could find them through the use of forensic accounting and our investigative efforts.
We realize that child custody without child support is a pretty hollow victory. You can rest assured that Charlotte Christian Law will approach your child support case with the same intensity we approach the question of child custody. For us, the two go hand in hand.
Huntsville Child Custody Lawyer Near Me(256) 859-7277
What If I Signed a Prenuptial Agreement Granting Custody to my Former Spouse?
It’s a sad reality that many marriages end in divorce. In light of this, many couples sign prenuptial agreements that spell out what will happen if their marriage fails. While most prenuptial agreements focus on financial arrangements, some also deal with child custody.
The good news is, even if you signed an agreement awarding custody to your former spouse, the fight isn’t over. Prenuptial agreements can be contested. Even if the financial aspect of the agreement is held up, the court will decide child custody based on what’s best for the child at the time your case is heard.
You see, prenuptial agreements were originally designed to avoid long, protracted fights over assets after marriages dissolve. However, child support and child custody issues occur too far into the future for any prenuptial agreement to adequately address.
Charlotte Christian Law can still fight for you even if you think you “signed away” your custodial rights in your prenuptial agreement. So, don’t let the fact that you signed a prenuptial agreement with child custody and support stipulations deter you from calling us.
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Do You Need Help Revising Court Ordered Custody Arrangements?
When courts make custody decisions, they base those decisions on what’s best for the child at that moment in time. However, things change and sometimes what was in the child’s best interests before is not in the child’s best interests now.
For example, what if the parent who was awarded sole custody has developed a drug or substance abuse problem in the time since the court made their decision? Or, what if you were denied custody because you were working long hours, but you’ve since transitioned to a more stable career?
Remember, custody decisions are not permanent. When circumstances change, you have the right to petition the court to change custody arrangements. If you find yourself in this situation, Charlotte Christian Law can represent you regardless of who your attorney was in your original custody case.
Ours Is an Award Winning Law Firm
Charlotte Christian Law has been a member in good standing of the Alabama Bar for over 20 years. During that time, the firm has represented hundreds of clients in family law cases involving complicated issues like divorce, child custody and child support.
Our firm prides itself on treating clients with respect and fighting fearlessly for their interests. Our commitment to client service and handling cases with a personal touch has led to us winning several prestigious awards for excellence in our field.
Charlotte Christian Law received a 10.0 rating from Avvo for 2021. Additionally, peer review service Martindale Hubbell rated Charlotte Christian as preeminent in her field, meaning Charlotte Christian Law is well respected by attorneys and clients alike.
The Charlotte Christian Law Difference
First and foremost, Charlotte Christian Law wants our clients to realize we are dedicated to working in their best interest. We didn’t win all those awards because we sat back and let the game come to us. We believe in actively representing our clients and the extra mile for them.
That means taking a holistic approach to handling your case and treating you like a client, not just a file number. Aside from fighting for you, our secondary goal is to minimize much of the frustration that comes with child custody cases by keeping in constant communication with your regarding the status of your case. We want you to understand what’s going on.
The way we see it, we’re not just fighting for you, we’re fighting with you. We realize that your child custody case is very likely the single most important thing in your life. That’s why our mission is to do everything in our power to leave you in a better position after we’re done handling your case than you were in when we had our initial consultation.
Huntsville Child Custody Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You likely have many questions and pressing concerns about your potential child custody case. Below, we answer some of the most common questions. Get more specific information and a no-obligation evaluation when you meet with one of our attorneys.
How Is Child Custody Determined in Alabama?
Parents make child custody arrangements through an agreement approved by the court or the judge issues orders related to legal custody, primary physical custody, visitation, and child support. All arrangements must consider the possibility of joint legal custody and regular visitation with each parent. Judges will weigh many factors to ensure the decision serves the best interests of the child.
Is Visitation Always Given to Both Parents?
Both parents generally see their children frequently in Alabama. Parents rarely receive sole legal and physical custody. However, it does happen. This arrangement usually occurs because of a history of abuse or neglect, serious drug use, dangerous illegal activity, or other actions that endanger the child.
A parent who loses visitation rights may petition to modify the court later and regain visitation if they can show the circumstances changed and their child would no longer face danger with them.
Will the Judge Ask Our Children Where They Want to Live?
Alabama law does not set a specific age when a child chooses which parent to live with or when the court should consider their option. Instead, the judge decides if they believe the individual child is mature enough to have a well-informed and thought-out opinion about where they would like to live.
Many other factors beyond a child’s preference could go into the decision. While mature high school students may have opinions, they may not know all the facts about their parents’ divorce. For this reason, the judge will consider their preference with equal weight to many other factors.
Who Is Most Likely to Get Child Custody in Alabama?
Alabama law does not make it easier for the mother or father to get child custody. While they will likely share legal custody (decision-making), one will receive primary physical custody. If the parents cannot agree on a solution, the judge will seek evidence to understand a dozen factors they use to make this decision.
Who Has Custody During the Divorce?
If the parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule while the divorce goes through the court system in Madison or Limestone County, the judge overseeing the case issues temporary orders. This decision will depend on the evidence presented during a brief court hearing. These orders won’t last permanently; they end when the judge issues the divorce decree.
Temporary orders do matter, though. Alabama law prefers to keep children in their home, school, and community. The judge may prefer to award custody to the parent who received primary physical custody during the trial.
Can We Change Our Custody Agreement or Order?
Circumstances change, and your child custody agreement or order may no longer work for your family. Alabama law allows you to petition the court for modifications when this occurs. You must show a material change occurred, the current orders no longer best serve your child, and a new arrangement would work better. If the judge approves the change, they will adjust child support accordingly.
Who Determines Child Support?
Alabama has strict guidelines about how to calculate child support obligations. It considers parents’ gross incomes, how many days the child lives with each parent, health insurance and childcare, and extraordinary expenses unique to that case. Your attorney may calculate the child support payment, but the judge must approve it.
Parents cannot agree to a child support payment outside of these calculations. The court will not approve it without reasoning and documentation.
How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Support?
Alabama law considers 19 the age of majority. You will need to pay child support at least until your child’s 19th birthday unless they request and get approval for emancipation before this date. If they turn 19 but are still in high school, you will need to pay until they graduate.
In cases where the child faces unique cognitive or medical concerns and will never live independently, the court could order continued support throughout their lifetime.
Discuss Your Options With a Huntsville Child Custody Lawyer From Our Team
At Charlotte Christian Law, we know you may worry about how divorce will affect your children. We also understand that you want what best serves them and need help pursuing that through a negotiated agreement or court order. We represent clients in divorces, custody disputes, modifications, and more.
Charlotte Christian Law Huntsville Office Location:1500 Perimeter Parkway #275
Huntsville, AL 35806