How to File for Custody of a Minor in Mobile, Alabama

By Brenna Davis

Custody disputes commonly arise as the result of divorce or paternity proceedings. The Alabama legislature has enacted laws governing petitions for custody, and custody proceedings are heard by judges in the Alabama family court system. In Mobile, parents must petition the family court in the 13th Judicial Circuit. Before seeking custody of a child, you should ensure that you are able to provide loving, competent care. In most cases, the child will do best if given liberal visitation with the other parent. Except in cases of abuse, children are frequently given time with both parents.

Standards for Custody

Like all states, Alabama bases custody decisions on the best interests of the child. Judges must consider the goals of the Alabama state legislature when making custody decisions. These goals include strengthening the family, improving the child's home environment and promoting the care, protection and discipline of the child. Alabama law also allows husbands who have been abandoned by their wives to have custody if the children are over the age of seven and the man is otherwise a fit parent.

Filing for Custody

Alabama law requires all parents seeking a divorce to file paperwork addressing child custody arrangements. Other petitions for child custody may also be filed in family court in the county where the child currently resides. Until the court recognizes the father as the child's legal father, he cannot file for custody. If a custody order has already been issued in your case, you must file a petition for modification demonstrating that there has been a change in circumstances warranting the change. The family court clerk has the necessary forms pertinent to various circumstances. Go to the court and request the paperwork that applies to your case. Fill out the forms, return the paperwork to the clerk, and pay the filing fee. The clerk usually will schedule a preliminary hearing, and at the hearing, the judge will make initial determinations on temporary custody, mediation and child experts.

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Preliminary Hearing

At the preliminary hearing, the parties will be advised of how the judge wants the case to proceed. If evidence of child abuse exists, bring it to the hearing; the judge may award you temporary custody to keep the child safe. Otherwise, the judge will likely order you both to attend mediation and hopefully resolve the issue on your own. He may also appoint a guardian ad litem – an attorney hired to represent the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem may investigate, file motions and make recommendations to the court. Judges also have the authority to appoint psychologists and other child experts to evaluate and determine the child's emotional state. You must comply with any preliminary orders issued by the judge and cooperate with court-appointed child experts and advocates. Failing to do so could undermine your case.

Trial and Evidence

If you are unable to settle your case, it will be scheduled for trial. At the trial, you must present evidence indicating why it is in your child's best interest to live with you. This evidence can be written documentation, computer printouts, photos or any other tangible evidence. You may also call witnesses. Good witnesses can testify to your skill as a parent or give specific examples of problematic behavior they've observed first-hand in the other parent. You might wish to consider hiring expert witnesses such as social workers and psychologists to testify on why a particular custody plan is in the child's psychological interest. After hearing evidence, the judge will issue an order. Failure to comply with the custody order may lead to a contempt of court citation.

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Michigan’s statutes don’t technically recognize what most parents think of as sole custody. The state leans toward awarding joint custody, meaning that both parents have an equal say in major decisions. A parenting plan provides for regular, quality time with each of them. If parents request joint custody, Michigan judges are obligated to order it, unless some circumstance exists that would make such an arrangement harmful to the child. When parents dispute custody, Michigan requires many intermediary steps before a judge will make a ruling.

How to Get Child Custody If a Parent Refuses to Sign the Papers

Because child custody disputes can be contentious and stressful, family courts encourage parents to settle their disputes on their own. This not only shields the child from the stress of a custody fight, but it also allows the parents the autonomy to work out a custody plan that works with both parents' schedules and the child's needs. When one parent refuses to sign a proposed parenting plan or settle a custody dispute, however, you will need to use the court system to resolve your custody issues.

Custody & Addiction

A parent's substance abuse can have extremely negative consequences for children and family courts around the U.S. recognize this. Many states have a rebuttable presumption that it is not in a child's best interests to reside with an addicted parent. A rebuttable presumption is one in which an accused parent can rebut an assertion of substance abuse by explaining the addiction is in the past, does not affect the child or does not exist. The parent struggling with addiction must prove they can provide a safe home for the child and if they cannot, may be denied custody and visitation. If either you or your ex struggles with addiction, obtaining treatment is the first step toward establishing a healthier environment for your children.

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