The state of Alabama has laws in place to ensure the overall health and well-being of children who are party to a divorce. Alabama laws are in place to enforce child custody, including joint, legal and sole custody, and to establish the financial support of a child, including the calculation of child support and the consequences of a noncustodial parent refusing to pay child support.
The state of Alabama will grant custody of a child to a parent or both parents as long as one or both of the parents are not deemed to be unfit. A parent can be deemed unfit if he suffers from a mental illness that is not expected to improve, has a long-term substance abuse problem, has abused or neglected his children or has committed a crime against a child. Alabama defines joint legal custody as the legal rights of children by both spouses. Joint legal custody means that both parents have the right to make decisions concerning their children, including their child's education, medical treatment, religious affiliation, activities and visitation agreements. Joint physical custody means that both parents share in the physical care of the children. Sole legal custody means that one parent has the legal rights to make decisions concerning the child and he also has sole physical custody of the child. In the latter case, the other parent does have the right to visitation.
Issues Affecting Child Custody
Alabama courts can make custody decisions based on the parents' inability to come to a custody agreement. Other factors in determining custody include child abuse or neglect, domestic violence and the ability of both parents to provide adequate care. The primary residence of each spouse also is taken into consideration because physical proximity to the child can affect a spouse's ability to co-parent. In the event that spouses do not agree to joint custody, a judge can order it against their wishes if he determines that it is the best possible parenting situation for the child.
Child Support Laws
Child support in Alabama is determined by calculating the income of both parents. Custodial parents can apply for child support by contacting their local Alabama Department of Human Resources. Custodial parents who receive public assistance automatically are referred to their local Child Support Office to apply for child support. If the noncustodial parent cannot be located, an Alabama Child Support Office will assist the custodial parent in locating the noncustodial parent. A Child Support office can utilize a State Parent Locator, which can use Social Security numbers or employment information to locate the noncustodial parent. Parents who do not pay their child support might have their wages garnished, passports revoked or applications denied, licenses suspended, or liens placed on their personal property. Child support also can be deducted from an individual's tax return and the money refunded to the payee. Noncustodial parents who leave the state of Alabama to avoid paying child support can be federally prosecuted.