Adoption is a process whereby a person legally assumes the parenting of another from that person’s biological or legal parents and permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from those biological or legal parents.   Typically, adoptions involve children, but can also apply to adults over the age of nineteen. Open adoptions allow the parents to select or consent to the adoptive parents.

There are two primary forms of alimony.  Periodic alimony is usually paid in weekly or monthly installments for a specific time set out by court order and terminates on death of either party or the remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse.  Periodic alimony can be modified on a showing of a material change in circumstances such as a change in income, illness, or retirement.

Alimony in gross is a fixed amount of money to be paid by one spouse to the other in a lump sum, or in installments.  Alimony in gross is considered a property settlement and is not subject to modification even if there is a material change in circumstance.

An annulment is a judicial declaration that a marriage is void and establishes that the marital status never existed or a marriage never occurred.   In Alabama, there are limited grounds for an annulment. If one of these legal grounds cannot be proven, the Court may determine that the marriage was valid and the parties would have to dissolve their marriage through a divorce.

When a party is not happy with the result of trial and they believe that the trial court has abused its discretion or misapplied the law in determining their case, that party has the option to appeal to an appellate court for a second review. Appellate practice is highly specialized and heavily reliant on knowing the appropriate court procedure and applicable law, as well as being able to apply the law to the individual and specific facts of each case. Crittenden Partners regularly represents parties in appeals of their domestic relations and family law matters and has the experience necessary to guide parties through the often complex appellate process. 

In cases involving custody of a child, child support must be calculated and recorded.  Each parent must complete an income affidavit form stating the name of their employer, their gross income earned each month, and the amounts spent on health care and child-care.  Those numbers are then plugged into another document which incorporates the Alabama Child Support Income Guidelines.

The parents can use the guidelines in deciding on the child support amount or they may agree to deviate. Your attorney can explain the acceptable reasons to deviate the Court will allow.

It is extremely frustrating when child support payments are interrupted or suddenly stop.  If there is an existing order for child support, a parent can file a “Rule Nisi” petition asking the Court to issue civil and criminal penalties against the parent who has stopped paying.   A parent can also call the Department of Human Resources for options.

You may request the Court modify your existing child support award by filing a petition, but you must demonstrate a “material change of circumstances.”  Reasons for modifying child support include, but are not limited to, income changes of more than 10%, changes in employment, health care, child-care, and physical custody.

If a person is able to comply with the terms of a court order but fails to do so, the court can find that person in contempt.  A person who obstructs the court’s administration of justice can also be found in contempt.  Alabama law divides contempt into civil contempt and criminal contempt.  In civil contempt, the court will try to coerce a person into complying with the court’s order, provided the person has the means to do so.  A criminal contempt proceeding is punitive in nature and the sanctions are intended to punish repeated or aggravated failure to comply with the court order.  Sanctions for contempt can include fines, incarceration or other penalties. 

In certain situations, custody can be modified from one parent to another, or to a joint custody arrangement.  There are different standards in Alabama.  If one parent has previously been awarded primary physical custody, the standard to justify a change in physical custody is much higher.  In that case, a parent must prove that any detriment to the child is outweighed by the benefit.  If no primary physical custodian has been designated, the burden is the lower best interest of the child burden.  In either case, the parent asking the Court to change custody must show a material change in circumstances from the prior Court order.

Decisions on the physical and legal custody of a child are extremely personal and terms such as joint, shared, sole, physical, and legal custody can be unnerving when thinking about your own child.

Joint physical and legal custody indicate each parent has a say in the academic, medical, religious, cultural, and other decisions regarding their child, and each parent has a visitation schedule with their child. The term “shared” custody is often used when there is equal time (such as week-on, week-off).  Visitation/custodial schedules can be tailored to each unique situation. 

If parents cannot agree on custody terms and a visitation schedule, Courts in Alabama have enormous discretion to make those extremely personal decisions for them.  Many Courts will use what is commonly referred to as a “standard” visitation schedule if there is no agreement. 

Sole legal and physical custody giving one parent is sometimes necessary to give one parent sole decision making authority – to the exclusion of the other parent.  Speak with an attorney if you have any questions about what is best for you and your family. 

Dependency is a court proceeding to determine whether a child’s parent or guardian is abusive or neglectful.  In dependency matters, the juvenile court may temporarily or permanently remove the child from the parent’s home.  In cases where the child is temporarily removed from the home, the court’s goal is to return the child to the home or reunification.  To aid in reunification, the court may offer monitoring or services to the parent.  If a child is permanently removed from the home, parental rights may be terminated and another family can be awarded custody or given the right to adopt the child.  Anyone who has concerns about the safety and welfare of a child can initiate a dependency matter, but blood relatives are typically given preference.

A divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court.  It is also the process of terminating the marriage or marital union.  The legal duties or responsibilities of the parties once the divorce is final are set out in a Settlement Agreement or by the court in an Order.  Divorce commonly involves issues related to the distribution of property, child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, and the division of debt.

During a divorce, the assets of the marriage are divided by agreement of the parties, or by a court order which will set out the obligations of each party and the deadlines for those obligations to occur.  Should one party fail to meet their obligations, the other party can file a “Rule Nisi” petition asking the court to issue civil and criminal penalties against the defaulting party.

Crittenden Partners offers a variety of estate planning services to clients looking to proactively organize their affairs and plan for the future of themselves and their families. Such services include the preparation, revision, and review of last wills and testaments, living wills, trusts, and medical and financial powers of attorney, as well as representation throughout the probate process. 

Crittenden Partners provides exceptional legal services in all aspects of family law. With over seventy years of combined experience, the attorneys of Crittenden Partners routinely handle complex and contentious disputes with the utmost discretion. We specialize in divorce litigation, including jurisdictional issues, spousal and child support, child custody, marital property characterization, and valuation and division of assets. We also specialize in post-divorce actions, including actions to enforce prior divorce judgments and actions to modify child custody, child support, and spousal support. Other areas of expertise include paternity matters, adoptions, and prenuptial, postnuptial, and marital settlement agreements. Additionally, Crittenden Partners has an active family law appellate practice.

Our clients are diverse, and they come to us through the personal referrals of professionals, friends, associates, and family members we have helped. We represent individuals with successful careers, as well as spouses who bear the primary responsibility for rearing children and supporting their spouses’ professional careers. Our attorneys work closely with clients on sensitive and difficult personal matters, and understand the challenges associated with restructuring family and finances.

In addition to zealously representing our clients, the attorneys and staff of Crittenden Partners also stay abreast of developments in the area of family law. Judy Crittenden is the co-author of Alabama Family Law, the comprehensive treatise on all matters related to matrimonial and family law in the state. The attorneys of Crittenden Partners update the book each year to reflect statewide family law developments, as well as national and international family law trends– an undertaking that requires extensive research and an inclusive understanding of the numerous family law subject areas and their interrelation.

Above all, Crittenden Partners strives to provide excellent representation through expertise, commitment, compassion, and most importantly, the strength of integrity.

If parties want to live apart, but wish to remain legally married, they would enter into a legal separation.  The legal separation is a written agreement or a court order setting out the terms under which the parties will live.  A legal separation does not formally dissolve the marriage and does not permit the parties to legally marry another person.

Paternity is a court proceeding to determine whether a person is the father of a child, especially in cases where a child is born out of wedlock.  A paternity test, usually involving DNA identification, is used for determining whether a given man is the biological father of a particular child.  Paternity tests can be used in cases where the parties were not married, or in a divorce where a husband is not sure if he is a child’s father.

Post-minority support for college expenses are no longer ordered due to the ruling in Ex Parte Christopher, 145 So.3d 60 (Ala.2013).  There are exceptions for children with disabilities. Agreements and orders previously made on post-minority support are still enforceable.

Postnuptial Agreements are similar to a Prenuptial Agreements, but are entered into during the marriage to define each party’s rights in the event of death or divorce.  These agreements are typically entered into at a time during the marriage when divorce is not imminent. If the parties have already contemplated divorce, they would most likely enter into a marital settlement agreement.

Prenuptial (or Premarital) Agreements are an agreement entered into prior to marriage to resolve issues that may arise in the event of a divorce.  The purpose is to vary the provisions that the law would allow. To be valid, these agreements must follow certain requirements to guarantee that they are fair and proper.  The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act allows these agreements to be broadly enforced so long as there has been a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property and financial obligations of each party, the agreement is executed voluntarily, and the agreement was not unconscionable when executed.  Premarital Agreements often limit a party’s ability to seek alimony in a divorce or prevent a party from being able to renounce a will and take the statutory third of the other party’s estate at death.

With the Supreme Court recognizing the validity of gay marriage, same-sex couples now have the same rights, and the same challenges, as other married couples.  We believe that every family is unique and special, and that everyone deserves access to outstanding legal representation regardless of their sexual or gender orientation. We know that nothing is more important to you than your family, no matter how you define it.

We can provide guidance concerning a gay divorce or other family law matter.  Our practice areas include same-sex child custody, same-sex divorce, and more. We are committed to meeting the family law needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. As such, we stay up to date on the relevant issues related to this challenging area of law.

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1 Independence Drive, Suite 305 Birmingham, AL 35209

4000 Eagle Point Corporate Drive, Birmingham, AL 35242