How Visitation Rights are Granted in Mobile, Alabama

How Visitation Rights are Granted in Mobile, Alabama

In every Court, visitation rights are granted based on the “best interests of the child” standard.  Parents have the right to have visitation and contact with their children, and that right will not be restricted unless there is proof that there is some risk or danger to the child, such as in instances where substance abuse or domestic violence is involved.

Although every case is different, the Domestic Relations Court in Mobile, Alabama has published their standard visitation order – this represents the schedule of visitation that will be entered in a case unless there is a compelling reason, involving the best interests of the child, to either expand or restrict the visitation in some fashion.

Here are the details of the Standard Visitation Order for Mobile, Alabama:

a. Weekday: alternate Thursdays following the weekend which the non-custodial parent exercises visitation from the time the child(ren) gets out of school on Thursday until Friday when the child(ren) is scheduled to return to school. In the event the child(ren) does not have school during the weekday visit, then it shall begin at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday and end at 8:00 a.m. on Friday. 

b. Weekend: alternate weekends from Thursday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m. (The Court does note that specific holiday visitation set out below takes priority over the alternate weekend visitations; so, when there is a conflict between an alternate weekend visitation and the specific holiday award, whoever is awarded the specific holiday can have the child(ren) during the holiday time and the alternate weekend time does not have to be made up later.) 

c. Thanksgiving: alternate Thanksgivings with the minor child(ren) beginning with Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years. (The primary custodial parent shall have alternate Thanksgivings with the minor child beginning with Thanksgiving in even number years.) The time shall be from 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday until the following Sunday at 6:00 p.m. 

d. Spring Break: Spring Break holiday in even-numbered years. (The parent with primary physical custody shall have spring break in odd-numbered years.) The time shall be from Friday of the start of the Spring Break week at 6:00 p.m. until the Sunday after Spring Break week at noon. 

e. Summer: The last two weeks (14 days) of June and the last two weeks (14 days) of July. (The custodial parent shall have the first two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July as custodial periods, uninterrupted by the normal mid-week visit). 

f. Christmas: In even numbered years, from 9:00 a.m. on December 18th until 6:00 p.m. on December 25th, and in odd numbered years, from 6:00 p.m. on December 25th until 6:00 p.m. on the following January 2nd. The parent with primary physical custody shall have the opposite. 

g. Other: In addition, the child shall be with the mother on Mother’s Day weekend and with the father for Father’s Day weekend, from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m. This is the minimum and not the maximum visitation. The parties are encouraged to expand the visitation to fit the best interests of the child(ren). Visitation is further allowed as otherwise agreed by the parties. 

Minimization of emotional trauma on children. Both parents shall encourage the minor child(ren) to love, respect and honor the other parent. Neither of them shall attempt to alienate the other parent from the children, or do anything to diminish the affection of the minor child(ren) for the other parent. Neither party shall disparage or allow others to disparage the other parent to, or in the presence of, the minor child(ren). The parties shall make every effort to avoid talking about the specifics of the legal divorce process with or within the hearing of the minor child(ren). 

Moral environment. Both parties shall maintain a fit and moral environment for the child(ren). Neither party shall have as an overnight guest a person with whom they are in a romantic relationship or any person of the opposite sex, to whom the party is not related, while such party is exercising custody or visitation of the minor child(ren). 

Substance abuse. Neither party shall use alcohol to excess or illegal drugs while they have custody or visitation of the child(ren) nor permit the same to be used by any person in the presence of the child(ren). Neither party shall abuse prescription drugs while they have custody or visitation of the child(ren). 

Child’s health care. Each party shall ensure that the child(ren) take(s) all medication prescribed to him/her/them by a doctor and that he/she/they take(s) such medication exactly as instructed by a doctor. In accord with Code of Ala. § 30-3-154, the parties are reminded that they both are to play a role in the child(ren)’s healthcare decisions. Both are entitled to be present for all doctor/dentist appointments. Each party shall keep the other party informed of any/all healthcare appointments of any kind for the child(ren). They shall inform each other enough in advance that each party can arrange to be present at all healthcare appointments for the child(ren). 

Telephonic communication. The parties shall each be allowed reasonable telephone contact with their children while they are in the custody of the other party. If the parties cannot agree on what constitutes “reasonable,” such shall mean a fifteen (15) minute phone call with each child each evening at 7:00 p.m. 

School and extracurricular events: Each party shall have the right to attend the child(ren)’s school, religious and extracurricular activities, and neither party shall attempt to hinder the other’s ability to participate in the same. In the event the child(ren) has field trips or other events allowing only one parent to participate, the parties shall alternate with one another. Neither party shall take any action to alienate the other from the child(ren)’s teachers, coaches, or other providers. If summer school is required to pass to the next grade, each parent will see that the child(ren) attend(s) summer school during their summer custodial periods. Likewise, during the normal school year, both parents will see that the child(ren) attends school on days that school is in session during their custodial periods of time.

What is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem?

What is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem’s job is to represent the best interests of the child in any given case, and the Guardian Ad Litem does not represent either of the parents. As such, the Guardian Ad Litem cannot give parents legal advice. Parents must turn to their own lawyers when they need legal advice. If the parents need assistance in presenting evidence, gathering witnesses, etc to advocate for their own position in a case, that is a job for their own attorneys as well, and not the Guardian Ad Litem.

Although the Guardian Ad Litem can make recommendations to the court about custody and visitation in those types of cases, the GAL does not “rule” or make the final decision. Ultimately, only the Court can make the final decision on a case. Of further note is that the Guardian Ad Litem is forbidden from having ex parte communications with the Court. An example of an ex parte communication would be if the GAL had a private conversation with the judge about the case outside of the presence of the attorneys for the parties. As such, the GALs recommendation typically takes the form of a written report that is filed with the Court and thus made simultaneously available to all parties. Some judges do not request recommendations from the GALs and merely expect them to advocate for the child as any other attorney.

In some cases, a GAL may be appointed for a parent or spouse because that person is a minor themselves or is otherwise incapacitated due to mental or physical illness or disabililty. The GAL’s job remains to advocate for the best interests of their client.

Outside of custody and divorce cases, a GAL can be appointed for a minor or incapacitated person in all types of civil lawsuits and their specific role may differ.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

When it comes to divorce, child custody and visitation disputes are no picnic. These events can be a very emotional and intense process. Frequently in divorce, child custody, or visitation disputes a Guardian Ad Litem, also known as a GAL, will be appointed.

In Alabama, a GAL is an attorney appointed by the court to represent the “best interests” of the child or children involved. A GAL’s duty is not necessarily to advocate for what the child wants which can sometimes be opposed to what is in the child’s best interests. The Guardian Ad Litem will often be asked to present a report and recommendation to the Court for consideration at the conclusion of the case, and, while the Court will take into consideration the recommendation of the GAL, the Court is not bound by what the GAL recommends.

A Guardian Ad Litem is not only appointed in divorce and custody cases but might also be appointed in cases such as;
• Minors involved without living parents
• Juvenile Delinquency Cases
• Child Abuse and Neglect cases
• Guardianships, Conservatorships and Decedents’ Estates in Probate Court.
• Civil Suits of all kinds where minors are involved.

Tips for Helping Children Cope with Holiday Stress

Tips for Helping Children Cope with Holiday Stress

For most children the holidays are happy, fun and exciting. Children are on a break from school, and the holidays serve as a time to see friends and relatives and enjoy special food and family traditions. For some children, however, the holidays can be stressful and confusing. When parents are newly divorced, the holidays often remind children of what has changed in their lives. Although things have changed, it is important to make sure that both the children and the parents have peaceful holidays.

For those parenting out of two households, seasonal festivities often send stress levels soaring. But with these useful tips, these stressful situations can be manageable for the children as well as the parents.

  • Keep the holidays tension free. Orchestrating a Christmas between split parents can be frustrating. But be mindful that they key to making things work for the children is to have a tension free holiday. If you can reasonably manage your feelings, a holiday together could be meaningful for the children. If not, you will be better having separate celebrations. Just keep in mind that even though you may have personal differences, putting on a tension free front to your children will be for their best interests.
  • Keep the children in the loop, and smooth out transitions. Going back and forth between two households during the holidays can be challenging as well as frustrating for children. Many kids will not understand why they are being shuffled between so many people and locations. Keep the children in the know of what is going on and give them a heads up of what’s next. Instead of telling them when it is time to go without notice, inform the children of what the plan is ahead of time. Set time aside to sit down with your children before the holidays begin and map out a schedule for them. The more they know ahead of time, the easier the transition from one family to another will be.
  • Don’t focus on “fair”, but what is right for the children. When it comes to scheduling holidays between households, parents can often become overly concerned with conflict or competition with each other and forget how it feels for the children. But parents must remember that what is “fair” for the mother and father may not be what is best for the children. Do your best to stay flexible and make sure to keep your children’s needs at the top of your agenda.
  • Holidays present challenges for lots of families. While the holidays can be stressful, keeping the children’s best interest in mind will be the best way to ensure that you and your family have a stress-free holiday. Talk with your children. Ask them what they would like, and do your best to take that into account. By following these tips, you can make sure that you and your children have a successful holiday season.
What is Mediation?

What is Mediation?

When it comes to getting a divorce not everything has to be a knock-down, drawn-out affair for both parties. Divorce mediation can help avoid court and resolve numerous questions. Mediation is one of the most frequently used methods of alternative dispute resolution when it comes to negotiating a divorce settlement.

Here are a few facts about Mediation that will help answer common questions about the process.

What is Mediation? Mediation is used to settle disputes when two parties are unable to agree or settle a disagreement. It is not binding unless an agreement is reached.

What is a mediator? In mediation, several people will be present such as, the parties, their attorneys, and the mediator. A mediator is a neutral party that is specially trained to help the parties create a fair and reasonable divorce agreement. The goal for every mediator is to reach an agreement that both parties are happy with, or that they can at least live with.

What is discussed in Mediation? Several divorce matters are discussed while in mediation. You and your soon to be ex-spouse need to decide more than a few important issues. The most common issues that are discussed are: distribution of property/assets/liabilities, child custody, child support, retirement, taxes, and more.

How long does mediation take? The length of mediation can vary on what issues have to be agreed upon. Also, the length of time spent in mediation can be determined by you and your spouse’s willingness to cooperate and come up with an agreement. Divorce mediation can be completed in as little as a couple of hours to an entire day.

What happens after Mediation? Depending on if both parties have come to an agreement or not will determine what will happen after mediation. In most cases, mediation results in the parties leaving with a written and signed agreement. The agreement will lay out every detail that the parties agreed on. The agreement is then filed in the Court and will be ratified by a Judge.

Alison Baxter Herlihy is now a Registered Mediator

Alison Baxter Herlihy is now a Registered Mediator

Alison Baxter Herlihy is now a registered mediator. She recently completed a forty hour training on Domestic and Family Mediation and is now a Registered Domestic Relations Mediator on the State Court Mediator Roster maintained by the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution.

The Alabama Supreme Court currently has a grant program and is working in conjunction with the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution to pay for the services of a registered mediator in cases involving minor children where the total family income is less than $85,000.00 per year. At this time, Alison is the only registered domestic relations mediator in Mobile County, Alabama.

Alison is very much looking forward to wrapping up her first ten years of law practice and adding the service of mediation as decade number two commences. Resolution of complex changes beings here!

Please take a look at Alison’s profile with the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution for more information. Here is a link to their site:

http://alabamaadr.org/web/roster-mediators/index.php?ID=1689&action=Profile