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Legal child custody decision can impact your child long term

You have finally decided to get a divorce and move on with your own life. However, the decision is bittersweet. On the one hand, you are looking forward to total independence again. On the other hand, you are worried about who will end up with custody of your children.

When people hear the term child custody, they often think about physical custody -- in other words, with which parent a child will live. However, another important aspect of rearing a child during divorce is legal custody. Here is a glimpse at what legal custody entails in Alabama.

What exactly is legal custody?

A parent who is awarded this type of custody can legally make decisions concerning the rearing of a child as well as important parts of his or her welfare. These parts include the child's religious instruction, dental care, medical care and education, including which school he or she will attend. The child's extracurricular activities, tutoring and cultural education also fall under this category.

Joint legal custody

Courts generally prefer that both parents following divorce receive joint legal custody. However, this will not happen if one of the parents appears to be unfit somehow or cannot make decisions regarding the upbringing of the child. Factors such as a history of child neglect, drug abuse or domestic violence would be considered when a judge is deciding how to handle legal custody.

Sole legal custody

If your future ex ends up not receiving custody of your child, this means you will have sole legal custody. This basically means you assume responsibility for making all decisions about your child's upbringing. There is no need for you to consider your future ex's opinions or wishes in this situation.

Your rights when tackling custody during divorce

The divorce process can understandably be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you and your spouse are not on the same page when it comes to child custody. However, if you both can create a mutually satisfactory parenting plan outside of court, this may help to mitigate the stress that often comes with child custody cases.

If you cannot find common ground, you have no choice but to proceed to trial, where a judge will ultimately decide who gets custody of the child. Unfortunately, in this situation, the judge's decision may not necessarily be in line with what you or your future ex would have wanted or expected.

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