The issue of child custody can be one of the most difficult and most contentious issues a family law attorney handles. It is also a very complicated issue, which leads to a tremendous amount of confusion and misinformation surrounding the topic. When facing an issue regarding the custody of your child, it is important to know some of the basics.

  • Physical custody - In this situation, the child lives primarily with one parent and visits the other parent on a visitation-scheduled time frame.
  • Joint physical custody - If joint physical custody is awarded, the child lives equally with both parties.
  • Legal custody - The parent who is awarded legal custody has the right to make decisions regarding the legal rights of the child.
  • Joint legal custody - Both parents share in making decisions regarding the legal rights of the child.
  • Joint legal and physical custody - The child lives equally with both parents. Additionally, both parents share in making decisions regarding the legal rights of the child.
  • Sole custody - One parent has been granted both the exclusive legal and physical custody of the child. Although the other parent may still be permitted visitation rights, the sole custodian makes the decisions for the child.

In Alabama, the court applies different standards when determining the best custody arrangement for minor children depending on whether there has never been a custody order in place or whether there is an order in place and one party is asking the court to modify that order. When there has never been a custody order in place, the court looks at what is in the "best interests of the child" when determining the proper custody arrangement.

When faced with a request to modify a current order, the court will apply what is known as the "McLendon" standard. This name comes from the 1984 case where this standard was set, Ex Parte McLendon. This standard requires the parent seeking to modify the custody order to demonstrate the following things in order for the changes they have requested to be made:

  • A material change in the circumstances has occurred since the previous judgment regarding custody.
  • The child's best interest will be materially promoted by a change in custody.
  • The benefits of the change in custody will more than offset the inherent disruptive effect which results from changing custody.

If you need assistance with a custody or visitation situation, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.

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