Legal Information: Alabama


June 12, 2018

How will a judge make a decision about which parent gets custody?

When deciding about child custody, a judge will consider the following factors in order to make a decision that s/he thinks is in the best interest of the child:

  1. The gender and age of the child;
  2. The emotional, social, moral, material, and educational needs of the child;
  3. The home environments offered by each party;
  4. The characteristics of those seeking custody, including age, character, stability, and mental and physical health;
  5. The capacity and interest of each parent to provide for the emotional, social, moral, material, and educational needs of the child;
  6. The interpersonal relationship between the child and each parent;
  7. The interpersonal relationship between the child and any other children of either party;
  8. The effect on the child of disrupting or continuing the current custody situation;
  9. The preference of the child, if the child is old and mature enough;
  10. The report and recommendation of any expert witnesses or other independent investigator;
  11. Any available alternatives; and/or
  12. Any other relevant matter that is proven by the evidence.1 (Note: Past or future military deployments cannot be considered by the court as the sole factor when making or modifying a child custody or visitation determination).2

In Alabama, if the judge determines that there has been domestic abuse, the judge is supposed to assume that it is not in the best interest for the abuser to get sole or joint custody.3  However, the abuser still has an opportunity to show the judge that it would be in the child’s best interests to give him or her custody. If the judge is convinced, he or she may give the abuser sole and/or joint custody of the child.  For more information of how domestic violence affects a custody case, read Can a parent who committed violence get custody?

1 Ex parte Christopher P. Devine, 398 So. 2d 686 (Supreme Court of Alabama 1981)
2 Statute section pending; approved 6/5/15, 2015 Al. ALS 366
3 Alabama Code § 30-3-133