In Mobile County, all child custody and visitation cases where the parents have never been married to each other are heard in Juvenile Court by a District Court Judge. For many years, this judge was the Hon. George Brown. Effective January 2023, Judge Brown has retired and his replacement is the Hon. Linda Jensen.
Judge Jensen has issued an updated standard visitation schedule, which represents a significant expansion of visitation from the former schedule that has been in place for the past decade or longer. If you are a never-married parent with a custody and visitation issue with your child and you have never been to court, this will affect the outcome of your case. If you have been to court before and have a court order already, it may be time for you to consider a modification. For more information, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.
Here is Judge Jensen’s standard visitation schedule:
Standard in-town visitation
Weekday: alternate Thursdays following the weekend when 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.
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.)
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.
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 at the start of the Spring Break week at 6:00 p.m. until the Sunday after Spring Break week at noon.
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).
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.
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.
When parents have been to court and both custody and visitation have been previously ordered, it can be hard to know when/if it is appropriate or the time is ripe to return to court concerning a modification of custody and visitation.
As with any court action, many factors go into determining whether or not the time is right and the action is “worth” pursuing. Those factors include court costs associated with filing a new legal action, costs of legal representation, chances of your success, possibility of having to pay for the other parties’ legal representation, and potential of having custody/visitation modified in favor of the opposing party instead of in your favor.
A substantial and material change in circumstances is required for a modification in custody/visitation to be warranted. This change of circumstances can vary case to case, but can involve a number of factors and can include a change of circumstances for either yourself or the other party. Some examples of how circumstances could change for the other party include the following: a parent on drugs, a parent’s change in living arrangements, a parent’s association with nefarious individuals, safety concerns regarding the child, the other parent’s mental state, the other parent’s fitness and ability to parent, a child not living with the primary physical custodian, the other parent is unable or unwilling to comply with the previously ordered arrangement, the other parent’s refusal to comply with the previously court-ordered custody/visitation arrangement, etc. Adversely, some examples of how circumstances could change/improve for yourself thereby potentially warranting a modification in custody/visitation could include the following: your completion of drug rehab and remaining sober for a period of time, your improvement of your living arrangements, the child lives with you instead of the other parent as the court had ordered, your move and/or inability to comply with the previously ordered arrangement, etc. These are just a few examples of common conditions that might warrant a modification in custody/visitation, but as with anything, circumstances vary and the potential for success is ultimately up to the judge as these actions are treated just like any other custody case and should be undertaken with the utmost care and with a qualified, knowledgeable attorney you trust. Modifications involve pleadings, court proceedings, motions, and a trial in front of a judge.
Parents are human and thereby the many factors of their living situation and ability to parent are prone to change over the duration of a child’s minority. An attorney can help you analyze your set of facts and determine if there has likely been a substantial and material change in circumstances as required for a modification in custody/visitation to be warranted. It should also be noted that a judge has the ability to award legal fees for your representation or make you responsible for the other parties’ legal fees, depending on the case. Therefore unmerited and unlikely modifications regarding custody and support should be avoided.
Divorce can be a difficult situation for all parties involved, especially the children. Many children are confused about the situation and do not understand why their parents are separating.
Although this can be difficult, talking with children is a crucial part of the puzzle when you are dealing with a divorce. Parents often put off talking to their children about divorce because they are unsure how to explain such a complex situation. But a delay in talking with your children can actually make the divorce more difficult for the children in the long run.
When children are suddenly surprised with the divorce of their parents, they go through a great deal of emotions. Many feel as if it is their fault that their parents are separating, while many begin acting out and become angry with others. This is another reason why explaining to your children why you and your spouse are divorcing is very important.
To help you make this process easier, here are six strategies for talking with your kids about divorce. While it may seem beyond your capabilities, just remember that there are ways to make it easier on both yourself and your children.
Talk to your children with your spouse, if possible. If you present a united front to your children, they may not be as confused about the situation.
Carefully, and appropriately, explain the reasons for the divorce. Make sure whatever you tell your children is appropriate to their age and maturity level.
Make it clear that the divorce is not the child’s fault. Many children struggle with guilt during their parent’s separation. Be sure to reiterate that this is not their fault.
Maintain eye contact and a calm attitude. In order for your children to believe the situation, you must remain calm and truthful. If you begin to get angry, the child may become angry and upset as well.
Avoid blaming your spouse. Although you will have personal issues with your spouse, they are still the child’s parent. Do not put down your spouse to the child. This will only create more stress on the child, making them feel like they should have to pick sides when they should not.
Allow plenty of time for children to ask questions. They will have many questions as to why this is happening and what is going to happen in the future, and they deserve to have those questions answered to your fullest abilities.
Remember, every family is different. Talking about your divorce with your children can be difficult, but will be a critical step forward in the healing process.