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Know the Laws: Alabama

UPDATED July 28, 2016

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Below you will find information about custody in Alabama.  Please consider getting help from an organization in your area before proceeding with court action.  To find an organization, please go to the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

After an order is in place

back to topIf a custody order is already in place, how can I get it changed?

Because custody is ongoing and the issues around it may change over time, an order is never permanent.  If you have a custody order already in place, you can ask the court to make changes to it or modify it.

Generally, the judge will not change the custody order unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances from when the original custody decision was made. In Alabama, if a judge finds that domestic or family violence has occurred since the last custody decision, that may be considered to be a substantial change in circumstances.*

To modify a custody order, you will need to go to the court that issued the order, even if you have moved.  Generally, once a court has jurisdiction, that court will keep jurisdiction, even if you move.  If you move to a new county, you may be able to move your case to the new county if the other parent and your children have moved to that new county, too. If you are the custodial parent, and you and your child have moved to another county for more than three years, you have a right to have future custody decisions made by a court in your new home county.**

If you have moved to a new state or if both parents and the child have moved away from the original state, you can ask the court to change the jurisdiction to the new state that you and your child are in.  This is often complicated, and as with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this. Go to the AL Finding a Lawyer page to find legal help in your area.

* Alabama Code § 30-3-134
** Alabama Code § 30-3-5

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back to topCan I change the state where the case is being heard?

Maybe. If you move to another state, you may be able to change the state where the custody case is being heard. You will have to ask the judge that is hearing the case to change the jurisdiction of your case. This is often complicated and, as with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this. To find a lawyer in your area please visit our AL Finding a Lawyer page.

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back to topIf there is a custody order in place, can I take my kids out of state?

It depends.  You might not have a problem if taking the child out of state does not interfere with the other parent's custody or visitation rights or if the other parent gives written permission. 

If it is safe for you to do so, it might be a good idea to let the other parent know your plans and the date you expect to return if you are leaving the state briefly so that the parent does not think that you have left the state to relocate with the child.  Technically, under the law, you would not be considered to have "relocated" with the child unless you live somewhere else for more than 45 days.  This does not apply to trips that are temporary in nature and do not effect a change in the child’s principal residence (main home) or to moves that happen because of the need to escape domestic violence.*

Note: The laws concerning moving and taking a child out of state are very complicated and, as with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this first before you leave the state.  To find a lawyer or legal aid program in your area, please visit the AL Finding a Lawyer page.

* Alabama Code § 30-3-161(11)

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back to topWhat if I want to move with my children?

Notice requirement
Alabama law requires parents to notify anyone else who has custody or visitation rights to a child when the parent is planning to move with the child.  The judge could order, however, that for victims of domestic violence or situations where the child's safety could be in danger, the parent planning to move could be excused from having to give the required notice.  Also, the judge can order that the address and phone number of the child and/or victim not be made public in court.*

At least 45 days before you move, you usually have to inform the other parent, by certified mail, of the planned move and provide them with detailed information about the move, including contact information, your child's school information, when and why you are moving. The court may also require information about the other party's right to object.

If you did not know (and it was impossible for you to know) about the move 45 days in advance and it is not reasonably possible to put off the move, the time limit to give notice is within 10 days after you know you will have to move.*1

Objection by other parent
The other parent can go to court to object to the planned move and can ask the judge to make an order preventing the move.  Non-parents who are entitled to visitation may only petition the court for a modification in their visitation rights.  Generally, the objection has to be filed within 30 days of when that person recieved notice of the planned move.*2  The non-relocating parent may not object to a move if the child will not be moving to another state AND the move results in the child living no more than 60 miles from that parent or if the move results in the child living closer to the non-relocating parent.*3 

Unless the parent objecting to the move has been found to have committed domestic violence or child abuse, there is an assumption that moving is not in the best interest of the child.  You have to prove that it is in the best interest of the child to move and the judge will decide whether to allow the child to go.*4

Note: If the other parent has been abusive, you may not have to provide detailed information to the other parent. If you're concerned about your safety, talk to an expert before informing the other parent of your move. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the AL State and Local Programs page.

The law about parent and child relocation is very complicated. Violation of this law may give the judge reason to change custody to the other parent.  We urged to seek the advice from an attorney before moving with a child. To find a lawyer or legal aid program in your area, please visit the AL Finding a Lawyer page.

* Alabama Code § 30-3-167
*1 Alabama Code § 30-3-165 (a) & (b)
*2 Alabama Code § 30-3-169.1(a)(b) & (c)
*3 Alabama Code § 30-3-162(b)
*4 Alabama Code § 30-3-169.4

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