Alabama’s joint custody statute has clear definitions of joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Here’s how it works. Alabama’s joint custody statute runs from Ala. Code 30-30-150 through 30-3-157:
30-3-150. Policy of state. It is the policy of this state to assure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal physical custody.
30-3-151. Definitions. For the purposes of this article the following words shall have the following meanings:
(1) Joint custody. Joint legal custody and joint physical custody.
(2) Joint legal custody. Both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child, including, but not limited to, the education of the child, health care, and religious training. The court may designate one parent to have sole power to make certain decisions while both parents retain equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.
(3) Joint physical custody. Physical custody is shared by the parents in away that assures the child frequent and substantial contact with each parent. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean physical custody of equal durations of time.
(4) Sole legal custody. One parent has sole rights and responsibilities to make major decisions concerning the child, including, but not limited to, the education of the child, health care, and religious training.
(5) Sole physical custody. One parent has sole physical custody and the other parent has rights of visitation except as otherwise provided by the court.
30-3-152. Considerations by courts; factors considered.
(a) The court shall in every case consider joint custody but may award any form of custody which is determined to be in the best interest of the child. In determining whether joint custody is in the best interest of the child, the court shall consider the same factors considered in awarding sole legal and physical custody and all of the following factors:
(1) The agreement or lack of agreement of the parents on joint custody.
(2) The past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly.
(3) The ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent.
(4) Any history of or potential for child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping.
(5) The geographic proximity of the parents to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of joint physical custody.
(b) The court may order a form of joint custody without the consent of both parents, when it is in the best interest of the child.
(c) If both parents request joint custody, the presumption is that joint custody is in the best interest of the child. Joint custody shall be granted in the final order of the court unless the court makes specific findings as to why joint custody is not granted.
30-3-153. Plan by parents.
(a) In order to implement joint custody, the court shall require the parents to submit, as part of their agreement, provisions covering matters relevant to the care and custody of the child, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(1) The care and education of the child.
(2) The medical and dental care of the child.
(3) Holidays and vacations.
(4) Child support.
(5) Other necessary factors that affect the physical or emotional health and well-being of the child.
(6) Designating the parent possessing primary authority and responsibility regarding involvement of the minor child in academic, religious, civic, cultural, athletic, and other activities, and in medical and dental care if the parents are unable to agree on these decisions. The exercise of this primary authority is not intended to negate the responsibility of the parties to notify and communicate with each other as provided in this article.
(b) If the parties are unable to reach an agreement as to the provisions in subsection (a), the court shall set the plan.
30-3-154. Records and information. Unless otherwise prohibited by court order or statute, all records and information pertaining to the child, including, but not limited to, medical, physiological, dental, scholastic, athletic, extracurricular, and law enforcement, shall be equally available to both parents, in all types of custody arrangements.
30-3-155. Application of Rule 32 of Rules of Judicial Administration. In making a determination of child support, the court shall apply Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration.
30-3-156. Interference with custody. The fact that joint custody has been awarded to both parents shall not preclude a court from finding that one parent has committed the crime of interference with custody as provided in Section 13A-6-45, or has violated the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 30-3-20) of Chapter 3 of this title.
30-3-157. Applicability; modification of order. This article shall not be construed as grounds for modification of an existing order. This article shall not be construed as affecting the standard applicable to a subsequent modification.
HISTORY: Acts 1996, No. 96-520.
EFFECTIVE DATES. Acts 1996, No. 96-520, effective January 1, 1997.