Alabama Child Custody Lawyers
When parents of a child decide that they do not want to live together–whether as a result of a divorce or separation–a decision about child custody must be made. This can be a painful, emotional, frustrating, and expensive process for parents, especially when they cannot reach an agreement out of court.
At the office of Kirk Drennan Law, our experienced child custody attorneys in Alabama can help. We understand what you may be going through if the custody of your child is being threatened. Our lawyers have the skills and experience necessary to competently represent you as you navigate this challenging time. Please call us today to learn more.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements
How parents decide to share custody of their child may be very unique to their situation. Some parents live close together and maintain an amicable relationship and, as such, the child spends equal time with each. Others may live far apart–making travel between homes impractical–or may have a very hard time getting along.
The various recognized types of child custody arrangements in Alabama include:
- Legal custody, which refers to having legal decision-making power related to a child, such as the ability to make a decision about where the child will go to school or the religion that they will be raised.
- Physical custody, which refers to which parent is responsible for the physical well-being of the child–i.e., with which parent the child will live.
- Sole custody, which refers to an arrangement where only one parent has either physical custody, legal custody, or both; and
- Joint custody, where custody is physical and legal custody is shared between parents. Note that in Alabama, courts recognize the value of a child maintaining a relationship with both parents and, as such, it is very rare for the visitation rights of one parent to be fully revoked.
Child Custody & Parenting Plans in Alabama
When parents are separating in Alabama and they have minor children, they will need to work together to create a parenting plan. Once the parenting plan is completed, it will be submitted to the court for approval. A parenting plan should include information about:
- Where the child will live;
- What the visiting or custody rights and obligations of each parent will be;
- Who will be responsible for transporting the child to school;
- How the child will be transported from one home to the other;
- Where the child will spend summer vacation, holidays, etc.;
- How decisions pertaining to the child will be made;
- What parents will do if there is a disagreement regarding the child.
The more thorough and comprehensive the parenting plan, the better.
What Happens If We Can’t Agree on What Should Go in Our Parenting Plan?
Ideally, parents will work together to create a parenting plan; however, it doesn’t always happen this way. In fact, in many cases, parents strongly disagree about who should have custody, where the child should live, and how the child should be raised. When this is the case, there are typically two options:
The first option is often the best one: parents can work with a third-party mediator who will facilitate the negotiations and ensure that the discussion is fair and that each party gets a chance to express themselves. A mediator does not make any decisions; instead, they are there to help parents work through their disagreements and collaborate.
The second option is litigation. If negotiations and mediated sessions fail, heading to court and litigating the case before an Alabama family law judge may be the only remaining option.
How Will the Court Make a Decision About Child Custody?
One of the challenging things about heading to court to litigate a child custody case is that it is impossible to predict what the final ruling of the judge will be. Many people prefer mediation as they have more control over the outcome.
When a judge is tasked with making a decision about who should have physical or legal custody of a child, they will allow both parents to make their case and present evidence to bolster their case. This is one of the primary reasons why having an experienced attorney on your side is so important. After hearing all of the evidence, the judge will make a decision that supports the best interests of the child based on:
- The child’s needs, both physical and psychological;
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs;
- The preference of the child (if they are of a sufficient age and level of maturity);
- How a move may impact a child;
- The child’s relationship with others in the home and community;
- Any history of abuse within the home; and
- Any other factors that the court deems relevant.
How Alabama Calculates Child Support
Alabama is one of several states that uses an income shares model. It calculates the amount of support a child would have if the parents had stayed married. From there, it divides the amount of support each parent must pay based on their portion of income.
The state maintains a, which indicates how much the child would receive from both parents based on their gross income. If one party pays child support to other children, that amount can be subtracted from their income.
To begin, you find your combined income on the left side. For this, let’s assume a combined gross income of $8,000 per month. Assume that you, the custodial parent, makes $2,000 per month and your ex-partner makes $6,000 per month. Your combined support would be $1345 for two children. You earn 25% of the combined income, so your contribution would be $336.25 per month. Your ex-partner’s contribution would be $1008.75. As the custodial parent, you would not pay support, as the court assumes that your income already goes to support your children.
Extraordinary Expenses and Education Expenses
There are additional calculations that can change the total amount of child support paid. Assume that you need childcare for one of your children so you can work. You pay $1,000 per month for daycare and $250 per month for your children’s health insurance. The court would add $1345 to $1,000 and $250 for a total of $2,595. When you multiply that amount by your co-parent’s expected contribution, you get $1946.25 they would be expected to pay.
You may also have extraordinary expenses to consider. For example, if your child has significant medical needs that cost a lot of money each month, that amount may be added to the support payment. Other expenses, such as private school, may also change the amount of child support due or paid.
Deviations from the Norm
While the state of Alabama does provide a chart to make it easier to calculate base child support payments, it’s not uncommon for final divorce decrees to deviate from this recommended amount. To start, more and more families are moving away from a strict custodial and non-custodial parent setup.
Many parents now embrace a joint custody arrangement. This would significantly alter how child support is paid. If both parents have their children half of the time, the higher-earning parent would likely pay child support to the lower-earning parent, even though they have the same amount of parenting time.
The court may also deviate from standard calculations if the parents live a significant distance apart. When one parent bears the brunt of transportation expenses, that may affect child support. Beyond that, any factor related to the child’s best interests can affect child support payments.
If a parent who pays child support goes on to remarry and have more children, they may expect their obligations to their new family to decrease their expectations to their children from a previous marriage. While a court will consider these calculations, a parent’s obligation to their other children do not disappear simply because they go on to have more kids.
Income Outside the Limits
You may notice that the chart ends at a gross combined income of $20,000 per month. Any income in excess of this is not subject to standard child support payments. This is subject to the court’s discretion and is often decided by both partners’ attorneys during negotiations.
How Our Experienced Alabama Child Custody Lawyers Can Help
At Kirk Drennan Law, we know how much is on the line and how devastating losing custody of your child would be. We will work hard to protect your rights and your child’s best interests. We’ll help you by:
- Ensuring that paternity has been established and that you have a legal right to seek custody;
- Helping you prepare all court filing documents;
- Representing you in negotiations;
- Gathering evidence and talking to eyewitnesses who can speak to your abilities as a parent;
- Helping you to reach a compromise with your child’s other parent; and
- Representing you in litigation if it comes to that.
Call Our Legal Team Today for the Help You Need
If your right to custody of your child is being threatened, you have options. One of the first things that you should do is to call an experienced child custody lawyer who is familiar with Alabama’s laws and who has a track record of winning cases like yours.
At the office of Kirk Drennan Law, we are ready to start working on your case today. Our lawyers will support you and aggressively advocate for your rights. To learn more about our process and steps that you should take, please send us a confidential message using the intake form on our website or call our law firm directly at (205) 803-3500.