Legal vs. Physical Child Custody in Alabama

At John M. Totten, P.C., we know that nothing is more important to a parent in a divorce than the wellbeing of their child. Most parents’ number one concern is spending as much time with their child as possible. The truth is that following a divorce, everyone’s lifestyle changes dramatically. No one will get to see their child every single day like before – but you can work to spend as much time with them as possible.

In Alabama, child custody isn’t a simple “one way or the other” sort of decision. It isn’t just awarded to one parent who fights the hardest. There are multiple forms of child custody, and multiple ways they each can be awarded. In order to explain the way that child custody is awarded, let’s first examine the many forms it comes in.

Physical Custody is what comes to mind for most parents when they hear the term “child custody.” It means that your child is physically living and spending time with you. Physical Custody includes all the responsibilities that come along with that right, such as transporting the child to school and wherever they need to be, feeding them, keeping them healthy and hygienic, and providing for them in any way necessary.

Physical Custody can be awarded Jointly or Solely. Joint Physical Custody means that both parents spend a significant amount of time with their children. It does not guarantee an exact equal fifty/fifty split in terms of time spent with each parent, but it promises regular and significant amounts of time for both.

Sole Physical Custody means that one parent has physical custody of the children and the other parent sees the children through visitation. Visitation is not a set amount of time or a standard experience, but it generally means a regular visit with the other parent. Situations where one parent has physical custody and the other parent is denied visitation only happen as the result of extenuating circumstances, often involving abuse and substances. For regular divorce cases, Alabama courts work to make sure each parent gets some scheduled time with their child.

Legal Custody is the ability to make important life decisions that relate to the child. These decisions can range from medical and health issues to where they attend school to what religion they practice to what diet they follow to what sports and extracurricular activities they are involved in. 

Joint Legal Custody means that both parents have the ability to make important decisions for their children. Sometimes the court will pick one parent who has the final say or pick certain areas where each parent can contribute. Sole Legal Custody means that only one parent has the legal ability to make these decisions for the children.

When it comes to child custody, Alabama courts award both Physical and Legal Custody. How these areas are awarded determines your family structure for years to come. If you are facing a divorce and fighting to get child custody, contact John M. Totten, P.C. today! Good people need good lawyers… so give us a call today!

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