Child custody laws in Alabama are in place to ensure the best possible living conditions for the children in question. While preference previously was given to mothers, Alabama custody laws have been changed to give fathers an equal chance of receiving custody if it is in the best interest of the child.
Third Party Custody
In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, will try to gain custody of a child. In these cases, the third party must prove that one or more of the parents are unfit to raise the child. Examples of unfit parenting include drug or alcohol abuse, instances of child abuse or neglect, or situations in which the child is subjected to dangerous circumstances. If a third party already has custody of a child, the natural parent must prove that a change in custody, particularly custody given to the parent, would benefit the child's physical and emotional well being.
Preferential Treatment Towards Mothers
In the case of Ex Parte Devine, the Alabama courts attempted to put an end to the preferential treatment toward mothers in custody cases. Rather than immediately assuming that a child is best suited to live with his mother, the courts now seek to determine the best possible circumstances for the child, regardless of the gender of the parent. In determining custody, the courts take into consideration the sex, age and emotional needs of the child, educational considerations, the child's parental preference, and any court testimony from witnesses.
In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. Domestic violence, cruelty to your spouse, mental illness that does not respond to treatment, religious affiliation or activity that might have adversely affected the child, and homosexuality are all examples of parental conduct that will carefully be examined by the courts according to Alabama law. Infidelity is not automatically grounds for improper conduct but if the behavior had a significant and negative impact on the child, the courts might take this into consideration when determining custody.
The Alabama courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if a no-visitation policy was agreed upon by both parents. In cases where children do not want to visit with one of their parents based on reservations that are not proven and factual, the courts can order custody, regardless of the child's wishes. Parents who go against the visitation orders of the court might be required to sign a bond stating that they no longer will interfere with the court's visitation order.
In determining child support, the court factors in the income of both parents, health insurance costs, the ages of the children, and additional child support or alimony paid to another party. The courts might deviate from these laws in certain circumstances, including shared custody, high education expenses and substantial costs incurred from traveling to visit one or more custodial child.