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Cullman Child Custody Lawyer

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Few relationships in life are more important than your relationship with your children. But a legal separation or divorce can threaten your ability to participate in your child’s life and development. When your rights as a parent are on the line, you need an aggressive advocate who will put your and your child’s needs first. Courts in the state of Alabama will determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. In many cases, what the court sees as the best interests of the child may not align with what either parent believes is best for their children. Because of this, it is almost always better for you and your spouse to work out a custody agreement you can both live with, letting your Cullman child custody lawyer from Hankey Law Firm help you memorialize your decisions in a Parenting Plan.

In Cullman County, that advocate is Shelbie Hankey and the Hankey Law Firm. Our child custody attorney has significant experience representing fathers and mothers on custody issues before the 32nd circuit court and in the surrounding counties. When you choose Hankey Law Firm, you have taken an important first step toward resolving your divorce issues, including child custody. We understand what an important issue this is for you and how a custody agreement will affect you and your children for many years to come.

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody in Alabama? 

When parents divorce or legally separate in Alabama, the court must enter orders regarding their child’s physical and legal custody. These orders can be temporary, expiring after the case or at another time set by the court. Or these orders can be permanent, in which case they will remain in force until the court modifies them based on a change in circumstances.

  • Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child resides at any given moment. The parent with primary physical custody will be the one with whom the child primarily lives.
  • Legal custody refers to the parent who is responsible for making significant decisions for the child, such as what medical care the child should receive.

As noted, the court enters child custody orders that it believes are in the child’s best interests. In many cases, you and the other parent will share custody of the child. Each parent will exercise physical custody over your child according to a court-approved schedule, and each participates in major decisions affecting your child’s life.

It is also possible for one parent to have primary physical custody with the other parent having visitation rights, while both parents share legal custody. Legal custody not only refers to medical decisions, but also to religious upbringing, and educational choices. In barely more than half of all cases where custody is an issue, both parents eventually agree (without benefit of a judge’s order) that the mother should have custody.

Although Alabama courts presume joint custody is in children’s best interests, this may not be the case in your situation. In fact, a true 50/50 split is rare, unless the parents live in close proximity to one another and get along well. When joint physical custody is awarded, the children might spend Sunday night through Wednesday night with one parent and Thursday morning through Sunday evening with the other. Holidays are alternated, and summer vacations are split. When parents have joint custody, it can be difficult to ensure the children have what they need for school or afterschool activities at all times, so having the parents live close to one another can help joint custody work. Speak with Hankey Law Firm about your circumstances and what child custody arrangements may be possible.

Why Choose Hankey Law Firm as Your Cullman Child Custody Lawyer? 

At Hankey Law Firm, attorney Shelbie Hankey and her legal team are dedicated to parents who want the best for their children. We never back down from a fight, so long as the outcome will be in the best interests of the children. In some cases, we are a neutral third party who may be able to better see what’s in the best interests of the children, particularly when parents are locked in a battle over every single divorce issue. You deserve a Cullman child custody lawyer who will look out for your best interests as well as those of your children.  

When you choose Hankey Law Firm, every aspect of your divorce and child custody issues will be meticulously prepared. We will never leave you with unanswered questions, or unsure of what is happening in your case. Attorney Shelbie Hankey and her staff are fully committed to staying in constant communication with you throughout the process. We believe you deserve an experienced, highly skilled Cullman child custody lawyer and Shelbie Hankey is that lawyer.  

How Can You Get Custody of Your Children in Alabama? 

To gain primary or sole custody of your child or children, you will need to argue that it is in your child’s best interests for you to be the sole physical custodian as well as the sole decision-maker. Your financial and mental stability as well as your ability to parent and the attachment your children have to each parent will be front and center when you seek custody of your children. If there has been a history of abuse on the part of the other parent, you can argue that spending time with that parent—given this history of abuse—is not healthy for your children.  

Your Cullman child custody lawyer will file a petition for custody in the circuit court of the county where you live. This petition will contain information regarding why you believe you should be granted custody—always focusing on the best interests of the children. The petition will be filed with the clerk, and a filing fee paid. A stamped copy of this petition must be presented to the other parent. A preliminary hearing will be scheduled, and you and the children’s other parent may be ordered by the judge to attend parenting classes or mediation.   

At the hearing, both sides will have the chance to present their case and the judge could possibly appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is an independent person appointed by the court to advocate on behalf of your children. If a guardian ad litem is appointed, he or she will file a report that indicates what they believe to be in the best interests of your children. Your petition, along with this report will help the judge make a decision regarding custody, or the matter may be scheduled for trial where you can call witnesses to testify on your behalf, submitting evidence that it is in your children’s best interests for you to have primary or sole custody.

What Are the Requirements for Getting Custody of My Child? 

Unless there is a compelling reason for the judge not to award joint physical custody, that is the default. You will have to convince the judge that joint custody is not in the best interests of your children. The factors considered by the judge in a custody dispute include the following:  

  • Whether the child will be safe and taken care of at both homes 
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate with one another and make decisions based on the best interests of the children rather than their own personal feelings 
  • The extent to which each parent can provide for the children’s emotional, social, and physical needs  
  • How old the children are 
  • The gender of the children 
  • The past and current relationship between the children and each parent 
  • Whether each parent shows a willingness to encourage a strong relationship between the children and their other parent 
  • The physical health of each parent 
  • The mental health of each parent 
  • How close the parents live to one another 
  • If the child is old enough and mature enough, his or her preferences will be taken into consideration 
  • Testimony from expert witnesses 
  • How a modification of the current custodial relationship will affect the children 
  • Whether the children’s current school and life will be disrupted if you are granted custody 
  • Whether the parent seeking custody plans to move out of town or out of state 
  • Any other information considered relevant 

Can Child Custody Orders Be Modified?

A court will modify existing child custody orders when there has been a material change in circumstances and the existing orders are no longer in the child’s best interests. Examples of situations that might lead a court to modify child custody orders include the following:

  • One parent accepts a new job in a new city or state
  • The child is having persistent problems at school or home
  • One parent is engaging in behavior that puts the child at risk of harm

To be successful, a modification request should be well-documented and presented effectively. Our Cullman County family law attorney can assist you in presenting your request for custody modification in a compelling light.

Why Should You Hire a Cullman Child Custody Lawyer from Hankey Law Firm?

When it comes to your child’s welfare and your right to parent your child, the Hankey Law Firm is committed to helping safeguard these critical interests. Upon retaining our firm, we will get to work immediately, pursuing a legal strategy to help minimize disruptions in your relationship with your children.

Contact our firm today to learn more about how we can assist with your child custody concerns.