Custody arrangement are one of the most pressing issues the court encounters in a divorce proceeding. Typically, since child custody involves a determination pf where the child will primarily reside, custody battles can take a turn for the worse and be very emotionally tolling.
If the parties to the divorce action cannot agree to a joint schedule, the court is charged with the duty to create an arrangement that promotes the child’s best interest. In Alabama, there are two types of custody arrangements:
- Legal custody
- Physical custody
Almost always, unless for some unforeseen circumstance, legal custody is shared between the two parents. Joint legal custody grants each parent equal rights in decision-making authority regarding the minor child.
The court normally designates one parent with the final decision making authority in such a case that the parents cannot reach an amicable resolution. However, the parent with the final decision making authority cannot unilaterally make decisions without notifying the other parent.
On the other hand, judges in Alabama usually don’t award joint physical custody. Typically, there is a parent who receives primary physical custody, and a parent who receives secondary physical custody. This is mainly due to the fact that it is nearly impossible to achieve joint physical custody without entering some form of an agreement regarding a customized schedule for the parents to abide by.
The court will implement its own physical custody arrangement that serves the best interest of the child. On the other hand, divorce settlement agreements tend to favor joint physical custody. Joint physical custody allows each parent to spend comparable time with their child and attempts to make physical custody as balanced as possible.
The court’s tendency to favor sole physical custody over joint physical custody is depicted in a case arising out of divorce proceeding in Limestone County, Alabama, in the case of Vest v. Vest. Here, the parties were married in 2007 and had a child in 2010. In 2014, the husband filed for a divorce, and the wife filed a counterclaimed; both parties filed for sole custody of their child.
During a hearing that took place on August 15, 2015, the husband asked the trial court for permission to relocate with the child to Eva, Alabama in order to move in with the husband’s parents. The husband acknowledged the fact that if the trial court were to grant this relocation that it would require the child to transfer schools. The wife testified in trial court that the husband was addicted to pain medicine, had PTSD from his time serving in Iraq, and had violent behavior.
The trial court entered a judgment awarding joint legal custody to both parents and sole physical custody to the mother. The husband appealed the order contesting the award of sole physical custody to the mother.
The Court of Civil Appeals ruled that the trial court properly ruled in considering the health, safety, and well-being of the child in granting sole physical custody to the wife. Here, the appellate court looked at the fact that there was evidence before the trial court that showed that the husband suffered from a psychological disorder from his military service and that the husband had a violent past.
There was evidence pertaining to an incident that involved the husband punching a wall and beating a dog. There was also evidence presented that showed the husband abused pain medicine and knew that relocating would force his child to change school districts. Based on the above-mentioned evidence, the appellate court ruled the trial court did not error in awarding physical custody to the wife and affirmed the physical custody determination.
Custody arrangements are one of the most fickle and volatile problems encountered in a divorce proceeding. The court encourages parents to work out an agreement before of turning to the court system; generally, parents have a superior insight to determine what is the best for their child. However, that is not always the case.
If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court will get involved and implement their own custody arrangement based on the child’s best interest. Therefore, to ensure the best outcome for yourself and your child it is beneficial to seek out an experienced attorney’s assistance that can help guide you through this intricate process.
Contact Divorce lawyer Joseph A. Ingram of Ingram Law LLC, at (205) 335-2640.