Divorce is difficult enough, but adding children to the mix of it can make it more emotionally draining. Figuring out which parent gets them and when can feel like an uncomfortable conversation you may keep putting off. Understandably so, but having a Huntsville child custody lawyer by your side could help ease some of this dread and represent you during these tough discussions.
At Charlotte Christian Law, we guide our clients through the divorce process from start to finish. That includes negotiating a favorable custody arrangement while keeping your children’s best interests in mind. You can learn more about how our team of family law attorneys can assist you when you call us for a no-obligation consultation, so reach out to us today. Our team of family law attorneys wants to learn your story.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements in Huntsville, Alabama
Child custody refers to which parent the children live with and who makes important life decisions for them. Alabama allows a few options for child custody arrangements, including:
Joint custody is Alabama’s most preferred custody arrangement, according to Alabama Code § 30-3-152. The children evenly split time with each parent, and the parents make important life decisions for them together.
Sole custody refers to when the children live with one parent all or at least most of the time. This parent also has the legal right to make choices regarding the children’s upbringing, health care, and education.
The other parent in this custody model usually has visitation rights. However, they may not have full or partial custody if the state deems them unfit to care for the children. For example, this parent may have a history of drug or alcohol addiction, incarceration, or child abuse.
Physical versus Legal Custody
Whoever the children live with has physical custody. Whoever has legal custody makes important life decisions.
The judge may order a combination of these custody options, including:
- Sole physical and legal custody: The children only live with this parent, who makes all important life decisions.
- Joint physical and legal custody: The children spend roughly the same time living with each parent. The parents decide the children’s medical care, schooling, religious affiliations, and other important life choices.
- Sole physical and joint legal custody: The children live with only one parent, but both parents make important decisions for them together.
When you work with our firm, we can help determine which custody arrangement works best for your children and fight for it on your behalf.
How the Court Determines the Most Appropriate Child Custody Arrangement
A family law judge determines the child custody arrangement based on the child’s best interests.
Several factors go into this decision, including:
- The child’s sex and age
- The child’s relationship with both parents
- The child’s relationship with their siblings
- The child’s educational, emotional, and physical needs
- Which arrangement (or lack thereof) the arents agree on
- The home environment
- The parents’ ages and mental and physical health
- How the divorce has affected the children
Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the judge may consider their preference for a custody arrangement.
If You Want to Modify Your Child Custody Agreement in Huntsville, Alabama
The child custody arrangement that the judge orders doesn’t always work throughout the children’s lives. The court understands this, so they allow parents to request to modify it.
However, they must inform the judge of their wish to modify. For the court to grant this modification, Alabama requires you to meet a series of requirements called the McLendon Standard to see if making this change serves the children’s best interests.
These standards say you must show that:
- A significant change in the child’s life occurred since the initial divorce agreement.
- Modifying this agreement serves the child’s best interests.
- The benefits that come from this modification are greater than the potential downsides.
Reasons the parents may choose to modify their agreement include:
- One parent will move to another city or out of state.
- One parent plans to return to school, so they can’t spend as much time with the child.
- One parent gets sick or injured, so they cannot care for the child.
- The child naturally gravitates toward one parent and wants to spend more time with them.
- One parent cannot take care of the child as they should.
- You suspect that the other parent could harm the child physically or psychologically.
When you come to our firm, our Huntsville family law attorneys can determine if you qualify to request a modification to your child custody agreement.
For a free legal consultation with a child custody lawyer serving Huntsville, call (256) 859-7277
If You Signed a Prenuptial Agreement Giving Your Spouse Sole Child Custody
Because divorce can affect many couples today, some couples sign a prenuptial agreement in case their marriage fails. This document usually outlines how the couple will allocate their financial assets, but they may also include a child custody arrangement.
If you signed a prenuptial agreement that gave your spouse sole legal and physical custody of your children, don’t lose hope. As we’ve discussed, you could contest or modify this agreement, especially if you were coerced into signing the original agreement. So, when you bring your case before a judge, they should understand that circumstances change and decide which arrangement serves the children’s best interests.
Don’t think you signed your custodial rights away if you signed a prenuptial agreement that gave your spouse sole custody. Our attorneys can fight for an outcome that benefits you and your children.
Common Mistakes Parents Make in a Child Custody Battle
When the judge decides who gets custody of the children, they pay attention to which parent prioritizes their children’s best interests. Of course, you have their best interests at heart. You’re their parent.
However, with emotions running high, it’s easy for these feelings to get the better of you. If a judge interprets your words or actions negatively, you may not get the results you want.
We’ve compiled this list of some mistakes to avoid when you’re in the middle of a child custody battle:
- Saying disparaging things about your spouse. Don’t speak negatively of your ex online or in-person, especially in front of your children. Trying to make them look bad so you look good makes the court suspicious. If you have negative views of your ex-spouse, the court won’t necessarily believe that that makes them a bad parent.
- Moving out of the family home: If you have a poor or toxic living situation, yes—remove yourself to ensure your safety. In less extreme cases, if you leave home with your children and don’t tell your spouse, that could hurt your case, especially if the judge hasn’t ordered a temporary living arrangement.
- Manipulation: Don’t talk your children into choosing sides. Not only should you not involve them in this conflict with your spouse, but you also risk hurting their relationship with their other parent. Divorcing parents should encourage their children to have a loving and healthy relationship with each other.
- Spending more time with a new romantic partner than your children: If you start dating someone else before the court finalizes your divorce, it may think that you’re more invested in this new relationship than your children.
- Not following the court’s orders: If you disagree with the court’s temporary custody orders, follow them anyway. If you ignore them, you may be held in contempt and lose your custody or visitation rights.
- Failing to communicate or cooperate with the other parent: You don’t have to stay friends with your ex, but try to communicate with them respectfully. You may receive a favorable outcome for your custody battle if the court sees you co-parent well.
- Berating your spouse: Refrain from sending your ex hostile or threatening texts, emails, and calls. The judge may request to look through your messages to get an idea of how you interact. Anything negative may make them think you’re not fit to take care of your children.
A Huntsville child custody lawyer with our firm can help you avoid these mistakes and advocate for you throughout the process.
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What a Huntsville, AL Child Custody Lawyer on Our Team Can Do for You
At Charlotte Christian Law, we understand that child custody is one of the most sensitive parts of going through a divorce. So, when you call us for a no-obligation consultation, we want to learn your entire story to see how we can make this process as smooth as possible for you and your family. You can trust us to have your and your children’s best interests in mind from start to finish, and we will seek a favorable outcome for you.
In doing so, we offer various services, such as:
- Compile and present evidence to support your case
- Handle communication with the courts and other appropriate parties
- Negotiate and renegotiate a child custody agreement
- File a motion to modify an agreement
- Contest child custody orders
- Represent you during hearings, mediation, and other legal proceedings
We encourage you to get in touch with us whenever you have questions or concerns regarding the divorce process, child custody, or any specifics of your case.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody in Alabama
Navigating Alabama’s family law system and learning the nuances and complexities of child custody can feel like a maze to many. That’s why our team put together frequently asked questions about the matter below.
At What Age Does a Court Consider a Child’s Preference?
Alabama doesn’t specify an age at which they consider a child’s preference for a child custody arrangement. Instead, it’s more about the child’s maturity. For example, if a child says they don’t like the way one parent disciplines them, the judge may not give that a lot of weight.
However, if the child says one parent helps them excel in school or has a better relationship with them, the judge may hold more value in that.
Do I Need a Divorce Attorney to Assist Me With Child Custody Proceedings?
Alabama doesn’t require divorcing spouses to hire a lawyer. However, doing so can benefit you, as they may handle various tasks for you. They speak on your behalf, so you won’t have to worry about going back and forth with the court, your spouse, or their legal team.
You can also cut back on the hours of research needed for required paperwork and the divorce and child custody processes since a lawyer has experience and knowledge in these areas. If you need clarification on anything, you can give the firm a call and get the answers you need in no time.
Is Alabama a “Mom” State?
Historically, mothers almost always got sole custody of their children. However, the court no longer favors one parent over the other, as the judge chooses a custody arrangement that’s in the children’s best interests.
Can I Take a Paternity Test to Prove My Parental Rights?
Yes, sometimes, men need to take a paternity test to prove they have parental rights. If the mother tries to put off the test or keep the father from taking it altogether, our attorneys can help. We can request to order a paternity test for you so you can have visitation rights or child custody.
Partner With the Huntsville Child Custody Lawyers at Charlotte Christian Law Today
Going through child custody proceedings in the Huntsville, Alabama legal system can seem like an uphill battle, but you don’t have to deal with it on your own. One of our family law attorneys can represent you and guide you throughout the process from start to finish.
We base everything we do on your and your children’s best interests, so you can count on us to strive for the most favorable results. Our team of attorneys wants to hear your story, so contact Charlotte Christian Law today at (256) 859-7277. We offer no-obligation consultations.
Charlotte Christian Law Huntsville Office Location:1500 Perimeter Parkway #275
Huntsville, AL 35806
Call or text (256) 859-7277 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form