Child Custody: Best Interests of the Child

There is absolutely no question that the most important consideration of any divorce is the issue of child custody (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, child support). Your children are your greatest assets, and the thought of not having them around at all times can certainly be stressful and frightening. 

If at all possible, you should try to come to an agreement with your soon-to-be-ex regarding custody of your children. The more you and your partner can come to terms during your divorce, the smoother the process will be. However, it is understandable if you feel you must go to court due to a stalemate between you and your spouse. If it is up to a judge to decide on custody for your children, the main consideration will be the “best interests of the child” standard, which this blog will explore. 

Factors that Comprise the “Best Interests” Standard

While Alabama courts, generally, try to create custody arrangements that allow for children to have contact with both parents, judges have a considerable amount of latitude to decide on custody matters. Judges credit this authority with deciding the “best interests” of children of divorce. There are many factors that, collectively, make up the best interests standard. For example, judges will often consider:

  • Any history of domestic violence between spouses
  • Prior allegations or convictions of domestic violence inflicted on children
  • Alcohol or substance abuse issues with either parent
  • The child’s educational and developmental needs (for instance, if the child needs specialized medical treatment that is only offered at a specific location near one of the parents)
  • The status of the child’s relationship with both parents
  • Connections between the child and the household of either parent
  • Ability of both parents to provide a stable and loving household environment for the child
  • The potential consequences of altering the child’s current day-to-day routines

Does the Child’s Preference Carry Any Weight in Custody Proceedings?

As the child grows older, this can factor in more heavily into his or her perceived best interests. No matter how old a child is, though, the preference in living arrangements will not outweigh the other factors. 

Another common question is whether or not the income levels of each spouse affect the eventual custody arrangements. The truth is that this consideration does not usually factor in very heavily. Remember, child support can level the playing field if one spouse alone does not have the means to care for the physical needs of the child. 


While it is useful to be familiar with the “best interests” standard when it comes to child custody, each judge is unique in how they will use the standard to decide on custody matters. For this reason (and many others), it is vital to have experienced legal representation by your side when you are going through family law matters. Our firm is well-equipped to represent you and your interests in court before, during, and after your divorce. Give us a call at 256-233-2025 today to discuss your options.

John M. Totten