The terms “dependent” and “dependency” get confusing as we apply them to child custody in Alabama. Most of us think of a “dependent” as a child who needs the protection and guidance of Mom and Dad. In Alabama, however, the term “dependent” means something very different, typically a child who CANNOT depend on Mom and Dad and is dependent instead on the public or on the state.
Here’s the definition of “dependent child” from Ala. Code Â§ 12-15-1(10):
a. Who, for any reason is destitute, homeless, or dependent on the public for support; or
b. Who is without a parent or guardian able to provide for the child’s support, training, or education; or
c. Whose custody is the subject of controversy; or
d. Whose home, by reason of neglect, cruelty, or depravity on the part of the parent, parents, guardian, or other person in whose care the child may be, is an unfit and improper place for the child; or
e. Whose parent, parents, guardian, or other custodian neglects or refuses, when able to do so or when such service is offered without charge, to provide or allow medical, surgical, or other care necessary for the child’s health or well-being; or
f. Who is in a condition or surroundings or is under improper or insufficient guardianship or control as to endanger the morals, health, or general welfare of the child; or
g. Who has no proper parental care or guardianship; or
h. Whose parent, parents, guardian, or custodian fails, refuses, or neglects to send the child to school in accordance with the terms of the compulsory school attendance laws of this state; or
i. Who has been abandoned by the child’s parents, guardian, or other custodian; or
j. Who is physically, mentally, or emotionally abused by the child’s parents, guardian, or other custodian or who is without proper parental care and control necessary for the child’s well-being because of the faults or habits of the child’s parents, guardian, or other custodian or their neglect or refusal, when able to do so, to provide them; or
k. Whose parents, guardian, or other custodian are unable to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child; or
l. Who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of the law; or
m. Who for any other cause is in need of the care and protection of the state; and
n. In any of the foregoing, is in need of care or supervision.