During the holidays, many people think about their families and spend additional time in each other’s company. For some couples, this can include a choice to have their own children or expand their family in other ways. It is beneficial to review some legal principles related to children and the family court system. This will help anticipate possible custody and support issues that may emerge over time.
Local news for Alabama reported on one couple’s struggle with the adoption process and their attempts to create a suitable environment for children.
Agencies use similar criteria for adoption and custody
A local couple in Mobile had been using their house to assist children through various programs with the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home organization. However, they had also been married for approximately nine years without any children of their own, and decided to formally adopt a child.
The couple began the process of fundraising when they learned that their large home which offered temporary assistance to other children was seen as a roadblock. Many agencies told them that having several other children in and out of a large home would reflect negatively on their ability to prove a stable environment. Some representatives told them in a straightforward manner that they would not let them receive a child due to their housing situation. This had actually caused them to stop their adoption search temporarily the previous summer.
After resuming the process a few months later, they received an email that October to inform them that they would be eligible to adopt a child. The couple met the child shortly after birth, and they have an agreement where the child’s biological mother will be able to communicate with the couple and her son regularly.
Organizations in the area were trying to spread awareness through these kinds of stories during November for National Adoption Awareness Month.
How does the law get involved in a family’s parenting responsibilities?
While welcoming a child into a family can be a joyous occasion, there are certain important legal doctrines in Alabama and all other states throughout the U.S. that are designed to protect the interests of children. These are related to financial support, physical custody of the child, and even criminal laws to protect children from serious incidents of neglect or abuse. As a general rule, parental fitness is an important indicator for child custody, just as it was considered in the adoption story above.
Child custody and parental fitness
When courts determine child custody, they want to ensure that the child will grow up in a stable environment with access to healthcare, education, proper nutrition, and other necessities. If one parent cannot provide these necessities while the other can, they may only receive limited custody rights or none at all.
A court will look at a parent’s work and job history, their income levels, mental health, and past issues with criminal convictions or drug abuse to determine a parent’s fitness. As a general rule, parents with sufficient income, stable employment, and a lack of problems in their past will be considered fit to receive primary custody. While this may seem like common sense, custody disputes can become a serious matter if two parents begin to advocate against each other and bring as many imperfections as possible to the attention of the judge assigned to their hearing. Preparing for this kind of litigation and presenting a parent in a favorable light is one of the most important jobs of a family law attorney.
Child support and multiple children
Child support is a related issue, and it can become more complex when multiple children are involved. Payments obviously increase with more children in the family to make sure sufficient resources are available.
Alabama law states that the child is eligible to receive support payments until the age of 19 when the parents do not live together. However, it is also possible that support may even be ordered in some situations where the parents share joint custody.
The state bases support payments on the income of the parents, their earning potential, the number of children in the family, and any special needs related to healthcare or education. A certain percentage of the total gross income of both parents will be set aside for necessary services like daycare and health insurance. The court may also impute income to a parent who is unemployed or underemployed when it is appropriate. If one parent starts to fall behind or cannot make payments, they may lose their visitation rights or face more serious criminal charges.
Get help from a local lawyer in your area
To receive help with any family law issues in the Mobile, Alabama area contact Jackie Brown, Attorney at Law. You can find out more about divorces, child custody, child support, and related matters.