Alabama mothers who get a divorce are still more likely to be awarded more time with their children than fathers are, but courts generally assume parents will share legal custody. Legal custody allows the parent to make decisions about a child's medical care, religion, education and other important issues.
Some parents share physical custody, but the child does not spend equal time at each parent's home. This may be too difficult for manage for working parents and a child who is in school. However, a Wisconsin study found that the incidence of parents in the state who had shared equal physical custody rose from 5 percent in 1980 to 27 percent in 2018.
When the divorce rate began to rise in the 1960s and the 1970s, ending a marriage became less difficult from a legal standpoint although it was still assumed that children were usually best off with their mothers. That has shifted as more women have begun to work outside the home and more fathers have taken an active role in their children's lives. There is also a rise in children being born outside of wedlock, and unmarried fathers who do seek custody are more likely to be successful than in the past.
One advantage of negotiating an agreement for child custody and visitation is that it gives parents more flexibility to make the arrangement that works best for their family. While a judge will create a schedule using the best interests of the child as the criteria, parents may have little control over the outcome in this situation. Once agreed upon, a schedule negotiated outside of court can then be made legally binding to protect both the parents and the child.