Understanding the child custody options available in family law

When Alabama married or unmarried parents decide to separate, it will be necessary to determine what will happen to their children. Most parents want to do what is best for their children, but it can be a challenge to determine what that might be. Understanding the basics of the child custody options available in family law could help parents to formulate a parenting plan that works for them and the children.

The first thing to know is the distinction between physical and legal custody. As the name implies, the children are living with the parent who is awarded physical custody. There is such a thing as joint physical custody, but that is often only an option when the parents live relatively close to each other. Legal custody is the right to make life decisions for the children, such as upbringing, education and religion. In many cases, parents are awarded joint legal custody.

If it turns out that one parent is deemed unfit by the court, a parent can be awarded sole physical and/or legal custody of the children. This often occurs when there is documented proof of drug or alcohol abuse by a parent, or in cases of physical or sexual abuse. In the absence of these issues, many couples are seeking joint legal and physical custody of their children. Co-parenting has become a popular way to continue to be as present in the children’s lives as possible despite the end of a couple’s relationship.

What type of child custody arrangements will work depends on numerous factors since every family is unique. Work schedules, school schedules and the proximity of the parent’s homes are all taken into account when the family law court reviews an agreement. Ultimately, it is the best interests of the children that will determine the decisions made by an Alabama court. If the parenting plan ensures that the children are well cared for and have adequate access to each parent, it could be approved.

Source: FindLaw, “The Various Types of Child Custody“, Accessed on Aug. 21, 2016