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Child Custody/Child Support

Child Custody/Child Support

The law office of Sam P. Dixon, III represents clients in all kinds of child custody and child support cases throughout central Alabama including Jefferson County, Shelby County, St. Clair County, and surrounding areas. Child-Custody and Child Support matters can be the most contentious matters in the legal system.  If you need an aggressive, experienced, and talented Child Custody or Child Support Lawyer in Alabama, look no further. 

  • Child-Custody— Custody of a child is most often raised during a divorce proceeding, but is also frequently litigated in Juvenile matters, or post-divorce cases where circumstances have changed, and the best interest of the child is at issue. Needless-to-say, these matters are some of the most challenging circumstances in family law and divorce litigation practice. Very few people willingly give up custody of their children, and most are going to fight and go to war in the courtroom, to preserve their rights to their children. 

Child Custody is often determined through the divorce process.  During a divorce, where children reside, with whom they reside, how much money will be owed for child support, and the amount of visitation the other parent receives are all major concerns.  There may be other concerns as well, such as who pays for extracurricular activities, health care, education, which church the children will attend, if any at all, and so on. 

During a divorce a child's primary placement will be where the parties, or the Court, determines which parent the child should primarily reside.  In doing so the Court looks at many factors, but the best interest standard is used in determining custody during a divorce.  Once a custody determination is made, it is very difficult to change that initial determination and must be made by a Petition for Custody Modification and the standards are much harder to achieve. It is essential that you seek legal advice involving any matter where child custody or child support is involved.

  • Factors in Determination – The Court looks at many factors when making a child custody and child support determination:
  1. Financial stability of each party – Courts want to know you have the financial ability, with or without child support, to fully support your child.
  2. Mental Health – The mental health of each party is of significant concern and should never be overlooked. In many custody cases it is imperative that a party move for an independent mental evaluation of a parent. 
  3. Any history of abuse- Obviously a relevant issue on custody which is why many false abuse allegations are made during a divorce.
  4. The Primary Caregiver of the Child While Married—Who gives the child a bath, who takes them to school, helps them with homework, takes them to the doctor, talks to their teachers, takes them and participates in extracurricular activities with the child, just to name few.
  5. The Child's Preference—At a certain age, the child's decision on where they'd like to live is an important considering. There is no standard age where this decision is given to a child, but the Court will look at a child's maturity, attachment to a parent and other factors. 

The courts look at a wide variety of factors in making custody decisions.  And a Court's determination of custody is rarely overturned unless there is a clear abuse of discretion.  An abuse of discretion standard is a tough standard to meet for the moving party in an appeal.  Always choose carefully and wisely in your legal counsel when making a choice involving representation regarding child-custody.  Normally you get only one chance.  Make sure you take nothing to chance and hire the best attorney you can afford as soon as possible any time custody or child support is involved. 

  • Child-Support -- After custody is decided, child support for a child is awarded based upon Alabama's Rule 32 guidelines. These guidelines may be harshly enforced.  Basically, both spouses' incomes are totaled, the cost of healthcare and any day care expenses are added, the number of children is computed, and that total number is used as a basis for child support obligations to the primary parent after a custody decision.  A common misconception is that if you spouse makes more money than you and has primary custody of the child, you will not have to pay child support, but that is incorrect. Child support is award to the child, not the parent.  Thus, under the law, a child support order should be involved in every child custody order.  However, you may be able to deviate from the child support guidelines, and in many circumstances, couples can agree upon or negotiate a settlement of support for other concessions, like custody itself.

A child support order is in effect until it is modified or upon the child's 19th birthday in Alabama. 

Failure to pay child support is a significant issue in Alabama.  You can be held in contempt of court, your wages and tax returns garnished, fined and even thrown in jail.  If you are having problems paying your child support, you should consult an attorney immediately.  If a child's parent is not paying support as owed, you can petition the court for contempt and make them pay the support through remedies listed above.

If you are going through a divorce and child-custody is at issue, trying to modify a present custody order, or involving any matter where a child's custody needs to be determined, please call Birmingham family law attorney Sam Dixon at 205-616-8896.  We've helped numerous families in custody matters throughout central Alabama including Jefferson County, Shelby County, St. Clair County, and surrounding areas.

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