Child Custody in Alabama: The Best Interests of the Child

What are the determining factors Alabama courts consider to award child custody? Learn how it works.

Talk to a Local Family Law Attorney

Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area

Gavel and Scales

In Alabama, the change of principal residence of a minor child may be ordered in a temporary order or final judgment in a divorce.  Alabama courts will consider any and all factors affecting a child’s well-being prior to ordering a change of principal residence. 

Impact on Child’s Relationship with Non-Relocating Person(s)

Changing from one residence to another will likely affect a child’s relationship with the non-custodial person.  However, non-custodial persons are not the only individuals affected by this change.  A child may be separated from siblings, cousins, friends, and others involved in the child’s life.  Courts consider the following factors that may impact a child’s relationship with non-relocating persons:

  • Nature of the child’s relationship with the person seeking relocation.
  • Impact on child’s relationship with the non-relocating person, siblings, and other individuals involved in the child’s life.
  • Required travel time to allow non-relocating person to comply with visitation arrangements.
  • Availability and cost of communication between the child and the non-relocating person.
  • Ability to make arrangements that will not interrupt the child’s relationship with the non-relocating person or create an inconvenience or financial burden for either person.

Child’s Needs

During a child’s lifetime, he/she developments certain habits and becomes accustomed to certain surroundings.  Relocating to a different residence will likely have a negative impact of the child while he/she adjusts.  For that reason, courts want to ensure a child’s needs are met.  Courts consider the following:  

  • Impact a change of residence will have on the child physically and emotionally.
  • Affect on the child’s educational development.
  • Child’s preference to reside with the relocating or non-relocating person; however, the child’s age and level of maturity determine if relocation is granted based on preference.
  • Affect of uprooting the child from the principal residence and relocating to a new residence. 

Find out more information about Child Support in Alabama.

Encouragement of Child’s Relationship

Divorces are difficult for everyone affected by a couple’s separation.  However, children are most affected because they go from seeing both persons regularly to seeing them at scheduled times.  Adhering to visitation schedules and promoting a child’s relationship with the other person is essential to the emotional changes a child endures during a divorce.  To ensure the custodial and non-relocating person will promote the child’s relationship with the other person, courts closely examine: 

  • Past compliance with custody and visitation rights.
  • Ability of each person to encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other person.
  • Likelihood that custodial person will comply with joint visitation arrangements and promote joint parenting arrangements if the child is moved to another jurisdiction.
  • Probability that relocation will provide financial, emotional, and/or educational benefits for both the child and custodial person. 

Proposed New Residence 

A custodial person may meet all of a court’s requirements individually; however, the proposed new residence is vital to a child’s emotional development and adjustment to new surroundings.  Courts may not award a change of custody if the new residence: 

  • Is in a foreign country that does not enforce visitation rights, lacking an adequate legal system, and presents risk of harm to the child. 
  • Lacks a support system to ensure the child will be cared for if an unexpected emergency arises or the custodial person unexpectedly becomes disabled.   

Other Factors

Other material factors vital to granting a change of principal residence include, but are not limited to the:

  • Stability of the family unit.
  • Reason both persons feel the child should reside with him/her.
  • Existence of recent or past domestic violence or child abuse in the current or proposed residence.

A detailed listing of Alabama's Change of Custody statute can be found here.

Talk to a Lawyer

Want to talk to an attorney? Start here.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys
RELATED ADS
LA-NOLO5:DRU.1.6.5.20141111.29342