Divorce is often the most stressful and confusing time in a person’s life. If you have made up your mind to get divorced, or you are still considering your legal options, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.
Issues in a Divorce and Custody Case:
- Property and debt division.
- Alimony and spousal support.
- Custody (if minor children involved).
- Child support (if minor children involved).
- Visitation (if minor children involved).
Each of these issues have special legal rules. If the husband and wife agree as to all of the issues, then the case may be settled by signing a written agreement to be submitted to the Court for approval. Once the judge approves a written agreement, the parties will be officially divorced. If a disagreement exists as to one or more of these issues which cannot be resolved through compromise, then the case may proceed to litigation. Divorce litigation is begun by the filing of a petition for divorce. Once the other party is served with the petition, the other party has 30 days to file an answer to the petition. At this point, other legal documents may be filed, including “discovery” which is meant to find out information to be used at trial.
If no agreement is reached between the parties in the meantime, the case will be set for trial and the parties will be allowed to testify as to the reasons for dissolution of the marriage. Both parties have the right to subpoena witnesses that can offer evidence relevant to the issues in the case. After hearing the testimony from the parties and witnesses and receiving documentary evidence, the judge will render a decision regarding the issues.
Alabama Law on Custody and Child Support
If minor children are involved, the divorce judgment must determine custody and child support issues. However, issues involving custody and child support are never final and may be modified until the child or children’s 19th birthday.
Custody can only be modified by a court judgment. Agreements between the parties are not enforceable unless the agreement is incorporated or adopted into a court judgment. Special rules apply to modification of a custody arrangement after parties have already had an initial determination of custody by a court. Custody may also be pursued by non-parents through the Circuit or Juvenile Court system under certain circumstances in which a parent or guardian is unable to adequately take care of his/her child.
Child support may be modified as well. Some reasons for modification of child support include: disability of a party, wage/salary increases or decreases of a party, rise in day care rates, changes in custody arrangements and increase in child medical/dental insurance premiums. The Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration provides guidelines for the calculation of child support. The calculation will be based upon the parties’ income (or earning capacity), child day care expenses and medical/dental insurance premiums. It is presumed under the guidelines that the custodial parent has the right to claim the children on his/her income tax returns. The judge is required to follow the Alabama Child Support Guidelines unless the judge makes specific findings justifying a deviation from the Guidelines.
Child support terminates automatically when the child reaches the age of 19. Based on a 2013 Alabama Supreme Court decision, a court can no longer require a parent to pay for a child’s education after the child reaches the age of 19.
Gadsden Divorce Attorney
It is important to contact an experienced family law attorney to help you through all of the issues regarding divorce, child custody and support. Our law firm has been handling divorce and custody cases in North Alabama for almost 50 years. Contact Burns Garner Law Firm today to discuss your divorce/custody case.