WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Legal Information: Alabama


Laws current as of September 1, 2023

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 ability 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 investigators;
  11. any available alternatives; and
  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 addition, the law states that if a parent is absent or relocates because of an act of domestic or family violence by the other parent, the judge cannot use this against the parent in making a decision as to custody or visitation.3 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.4 However, the abuser still has an opportunity to convince the judge otherwise. For more information on 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 Alabama Code § 30-3-9 (a)
3 Alabama Code § 30-3-132(b)
4 Alabama Code § 30-3-133