Legal Information: Alabama

Custody

If a custody order is already in place, how can I get it changed?

Generally, the judge will not change a 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.1

To modify a custody order, you will usually need to go to the court that issued the order, even if you have moved. 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. Even if the non-custodial parent has not moved to a new county, but you (the custodial parent) and your child have lived in 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.2

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. See our Changing a final custody order page for more information. 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.

1 Alabama Code § 30-3-134
2 Alabama Code § 30-3-5

Can I change the state where the case is being heard?

If you have moved to another state and you want to try to modify your order in the new state where you are living, you will have to ask the judge that is hearing the case to change the jurisdiction of your case. To read more about modifying a custody order in another state, go to our Changing a final order page in our general Custody section. 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.

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

For temporary trips out of state, 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; although it may not be considered a relocation if the trip is temporary in nature and doesn't change the child’s principal residence (main home) or if the absence is caused by the need to escape domestic violence.1 To read more about relocation, go to What do I have to do to relocate my child?

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.

1 Alabama Code § 30-3-161(11)

What do I have to do to relocate my child?

If you want to move your child out of his/her primary home for more than 45 days, this is usually considered to be a "relocation" under the law. To try to relocate, you must first notify anyone else who has custody or visitation rights by sending a letter via certified mail that has detailed information about the move, which is referred to in the law as "proposed change of the child's principal residence." The notice must include all of the following (if known):

  1. the new mailing address and street address;
  2. the new home telephone number;
  3. the name, address, and telephone number of the school that your child will attend;
  4. the date of the planned relocation;
  5. a statement of the specific reasons for the proposed move;
  6. a proposal for a revised schedule of custody and visitation;
  7. a warning to the non-relocating parent that an objection to the relocation must be made within 30 days of receipt of the notice or the relocation will be permitted.1

The letter must be sent at least 45 days before the planned move. However, 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 for you to delay the move, you must send the notice within 10 days after you know you have to move. However, for victims of domestic violence or in situations where the child's safety could be in danger, the judge could do away with the notice requirement. Also, the judge can order that the address and phone number of the child and the abused parent not be made public in court.1

Note: Unless the non-relocating parent has been found to have committed domestic violence or child abuse, the judge will assume that moving is not in the best interest of the child. So you will have to prove to the judge that it is in the child's best interests to move if the non-relocating parent objects.2 For more information on how the non-relocating parent can object to the move, see Can the non-relocating parent object to my plan to relocate my child?

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 encourage you to get advice from an attorney before moving with a child. To find a lawyer or legal aid program in your area, please visit our AL Finding a Lawyer page.

1 Alabama Code §§ 30-3-165(a), (b); 30-3-167
2 Alabama Code § 30-3-169.4

Can the non-relocating parent object to my plan to relocate my child?

If the custodial parent plans to move the child's primary residence for longer than 45 days, s/he has to send the required notice to the non-relocating parent. The non-relocating parent can then 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 cannot "object" to the move but they can petition the court for a modification in their visitation rights.) Generally, the objection by the non-relocating parent has to be filed within 30 days of when s/he receives notice of the planned move.1

Unless the non-relocating parent has been found to have committed domestic violence or child abuse, the judge will assume that moving is not in the best interest of the child. So the custodial parent will have to prove to the judge that it is in the child's best interests to move if the non-relocating parent objects.2

However, the non-relocating parent cannot object to a move if both of the following are true:

  1. the child will be staying in the state; and
  2. after the move, child living would be:
    • within 60 miles of the non-relocating parent; or
    • closer to the non-relocating parent.3

1 Alabama Code § 30-3-169.1(a), (b), (c)
2 Alabama Code § 30-3-169.4​
3 Alabama Code § 30-3-162(b)