1. How will the Court determine where my children should reside after the divorce?
Under Alabama law, at the time of a divorce, both parents have an equal right to the custody of their children. The Court will be looking at the best interests of your children in determining where they should live after the divorce. There are many factors that go into this determination, and much will depend on the individual facts of your case.
2. How does joint custody work?
Under Alabama law, a Court may consider an award of “joint custody,” whereby the parental rights of both parties remain intact, with one parent as the primary custodian of the children and the other as the secondary custodian. Under this arrangement, both parents remain involved in the decision making responsibilities regarding the children, with each parent having “tie breaking” authority regarding certain issues, such as education, health and dental care, religion, civic and cultural activities, and athletic involvement. Joint custody does not mean the children will live half the year with one parent and half the year with the other.
3. Does this type of joint custody effect child support?
Child support will be determined under the Alabama Child Support Guidelines, unless the Court finds grounds to deviate from the Guidelines. An arrangement as set out above, with nothing more, normally is not grounds to deviate from the Child Support Guidelines.
4. Will the Court appoint a lawyer to represent my children in the divorce? If so, who pays that lawyer?
If there is a situation where the rights or interests of your children are in contention, the Court may determine that it is in the best interests of your children to have an attorney appointed to represent them. This attorney is known as a guardian ad litem (GAL). The GAL is appointed by the Judge to represent the interests of your children only. Typically, the GAL’s fee is the responsibility of the parties, and the Court will enter an Order directing the parties regarding the payment of the GAL’s fee. A GAL is not necessary in every case involving children only under certain circumstances where the rights or interests of the children are an issue in the case.
5. At what age can my children decide where they want to live?
Under Alabama law, the Court always makes the decision regarding the custody of children. The Court may hear testimony from a child regarding that child’s wishes, but there is no point at which the child gets to choose where to live.
6. If my spouse fails to pay child support, do I have to allow visitation?
Yes. In Alabama, the Courts treat support and visitation issues separately. Violation of either can subject a party to contempt of Court.
7. If my spouse will not allow me to see my children, do I have to pay support?
Yes. Your relief would be to seek to enforce the visitation order through a contempt of Court proceeding.