When many parents get divorced, they do their best to set aside their differences to make a joint custody arrangement work. While this is ideal for some families, you may have concerns about your spouse’s parental fitness. You may be filing for divorce due to their behavior and feel that joint custody could put your children’s safety and well-being at risk. If you plan on seeking sole custody, though, it is important to understand the circumstances in which courts award it.

How Alabama approaches custody

Alabama, like in other states, separates custody into two categories. Legal custody gives parents the right and responsibility to make decisions about their children. And physical custody designates one parent’s – or both parents’ – homes as their children’s residence.

State law presumes – in most cases – that children benefit from joint custody arrangements. Sometimes, though, state courts will award sole physical custody due to the parents’ relationship, schedules or proximity to each other. In this case, the noncustodial parent usually receives frequent visitation. Yet, if their conduct could make them an unfit parent, it is possible the custodial parent will receive sole legal custody as well.

Seeking sole custody for the right reasons

Before you request sole custody, you must make sure you are proceeding for the right reasons. In some divorces, one parent seeks sole custody to harm or get revenge on the other parent. If your divorce is bitter, yet your spouse is a perfectly fit parent, a sole custody arrangement would likely be inappropriate.

Some reasons that it may be appropriate for you to request sole custody include:

  • Your spouse has a history of domestic violence against you or your children
  • Your spouse has a history of undermining your role as a parent
  • Your spouse has demonstrated minimal interest in parenting during your marriage
  • Your spouse has neglected your children in the past
  • Your spouse has serious mental health challenges
  • Your spouse has substance abuse issues

Even if the court awards you sole custody of your children, it is unlikely your spouse will be denied visitation. Given the nature of their conduct, though, their time with your children may happen under supervision.

If your spouse’s behavior puts you or your children in harm’s way, seeking sole custody may be necessary for their safety – and yours. An attorney can help you take the steps to work out an arrangement that protects your family.