While making child custody decisions, Alabama family courts will focus on the child’s best interests. The court has powers under Alabama law to give custody to either one or both parents after proper consideration of all factors stated under Ala. Code § 30-3-1 (1975).
A reputable divorce attorney can present compelling arguments during negotiations or at the divorce trial to improve your chances of obtaining custody even if you are at fault for the divorce.
Child Custody in Fault-based Divorce in Alabama
Fault-based divorces in Alabama typically occur on one or more of these grounds:
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- Abuse or cruelty
- Committing a crime against nature
- Incarceration or institutionalization
- Pregnancy unknown to the husband
You are required to prove the allegations when you file a fault-based divorce. This may be an emotionally challenging time as you uncover and share the details of the necessary evidence. The presence of fault by either party may affect the final custody decision.
It is important to understand that the court will look at the grounds for divorce minutely while considering the child custody issue. In itself, adultery and similar types of misconduct that only affected the spouse and not the children do not absolutely bar receiving custody.
Moreover, custody cases may be affected by misconduct where a demonstrable effect on the children can be proved. The key to determining whether bad conduct or bad habit may affect child custody is to find whether the habit or conduct directly impacted the children in any way or not.
The court will look at things through the lens of doing the best for the children. They won’t consider a fault to be detrimental to the children if it only affected your spouse and did not impact the wellbeing of the children directly.
Taking this into account, there are certain grounds for a fault that may bar you absolutely from getting child custody. For instance, a history of addiction, cruelty, or abuse will thin your chances of obtaining child custody.
What Factors are considered by Alabama Courts for Child Custody?
A number of factors will be evaluated during an Alabama divorce proceeding in order to determine child custody. These may include:
- The age and sex of the children
- The unique needs of the children, including their educational, material, social, emotional, and moral needs
- Respective home environment of the ex-spouses
- Specific features of each parent seeking custody, such as their financial health, stability, character, physical health, mental well-being, and age
- Respective interest and capacity of each parent for providing for the needs of the children, including their moral, social, educational, and material needs
- Interpersonal relationship between the child and parents
- The impact on the child if the existing custodial situation is continued or disrupted
- Preference of the child if the child is of sufficient maturity and age
- Recommendations or reports from independent investigators and expert witnesses whether appointed by the court or hired by either party
- Any other relevant factor or evidence which may be presented by either parent if it has a bearing on determining the best interests of the child
Alabama courts prefer parents to come to a custodial arrangement on their own through discussions and mediation if necessary. They encourage parents to enter joint custody arrangements if it serves the best interests of the child.
Is Fault a Primary Factor in Determining Child Custody?
No single factor outweighs other factors while determining child custody in Alabama, except the child’s best interests. However, issues such as domestic abuse, cruelty, child neglect, and drug addiction of a parent are taken seriously by the court. The individual circumstances of a case determine the results. Each custody case in Alabama is decided based on its unique facts.
Trial court judges can make custody decisions without the help of a jury. There is tremendous discretion with Alabama divorce court judges in terms of determining a suitable custody arrangement. It’s fundamental to present all relevant evidence showing that you are more suitable for fulfilling the emotional, educational, moral, social, and material needs of your children. This is irrespective of the divorce being your fault.
Joint Custody is Usually Preferred
The state of Alabama’s stated policy regarding the preference given to joint custody is set out in the Alabama Code § 30-3-150. Joint custody is favored by the policy to assure that children get continuing interaction and contact with both parents. In relation to this, this is only in those cases where the parents can show the capability to act in the best interests of their children.
It’s critical to understand that joint custody doesn’t necessarily mean an equal share in the physical custody time awarded to each parent. In most cases, one parent is made the primary physical custodian of the children while the other parent gets visitation rights. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side may help in improving the likelihood of obtaining child custody even if the divorce was your fault.
Protect Your Custody Rights with Help from a Family Law Attorney in Auburn, AL
Numerous factors need to be considered before the court can make a custody judgment. The experienced Auburn, AL divorce attorneys at Alsobrook Law Group can formulate a strong legal strategy to help you achieve your child custody goals in the best possible way.
To set up your complimentary consultation with our legal team, call us at 334-360-9534 or contact us online.