Jonathan D.Watson              256.599.4113
                         ATTORNEY AT LAW

                                                                                                                                  517 Bank Street, NE, Ste. D
                                                                                                                                  Decatur, Alabama 35601

Child Custody
Child Custody: Where Emotion and Law Meet

No other area of the law is as emotionally-charged as cases involving the custody of a child.  Anger, fear, and suspicion dominate the atmosphere of these cases.  Mr. Watson has experienced the contentious and no-holds-barred nature of child custody cases.  As an attorney who regularly handles these cases, he is not intimidated by the threat of heated litigation.  His clients can expect straightforward advice and a "bulldog"-in-the-courtroom approach.

The Basics of Child Custody

Child custody cases require an elected Judge decide which parent should be awarded custody of a child.  At the initial custody determination, the Judge must determine what is in the "best interest of the child."  In answering this question, the Judge must decide the following:

Legal Custody | Legal Custody refers to the right and power to make decisions concerning the education, medical treatment, religious and cultural upbringing, and other major areas of the child's life.  Courts in Alabama typically award joint legal custody to the parents; this allows each parent to have input into the major decision affecting his and her child and to be informed about their academic progress and health status.

Physical Custody | Physcial Custody refers to the actual physical possession and care of the child.  Courts typically award one parent sole physical custody and the other, non-custodial parent visitation (note: the standard visitation schedules of Madison and Morgan Counties are featured under the "Resources" tab located on the right).  However, a Court may also, if the Judge determines the situation to be appropriate, award the parents joint physical custody.  This type of custody arrangment requires the Judge then design a custody schedule to be shared by the parents; this schedule is not always 50/50.  However, it is important to note that an award of joint physical custody has a significant impact on child support.

Types of Child Custody Cases

Child custody issues arise in a variety of cases.

Paternity/Child Support - Court cases which seek to establish the paternity of a child implicitly involve the custody of the child.  It is important to recognize that if the alleged father does not avail himself of his rights to custody at that time, his ability to ever have custody or visitation with his child may be jeopardized.

Divorce - A divorce case involving minor children will require that custody be addressed.  While these types of cases often settle, many go to trial and become extremely contentious and heated.  Competent representation is vital.

Modification - Child custody arrangments are never permanent.  Either parent can return to the Court at any time and seek a change in the custody arrangment.  However, the standard to do so is more difficult than the standard at the initial custody hearing.  Rather than determining what is in the "best interests of the child," the Judge hearing a custody modification case must determine if a "change in material circumstances" has occured that would justify a change in custody.

Choosing a Child Custody Lawyer

The importance of retaining an attorney who recognizes how important your case is and will fight relentlessly for the custody of your child cannot be overstated.  Attorney Jonathan D. Watson is glad to sit-down with you and your family to discuss the specifics of your case and offer his recommendations.  To schedule a consultation, call 256.599.4113 or email Mr. Watson at
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Frequently Asked Questions

I foresee a child custody battle in my future.  What should I do now?

Do "Mothers" have an advantage in custody cases?

What types of factors are considered in custody cases?

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