Do I Have to Have my Ex’s Permission to Move Out of Town with Our Children?

When parents decide to divorce, they must also figure out a way to continue acting in their children’s best interests. If they can’t reach a reasonable custody and support arrangement, the courts will step in and do it for them.

Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s education, health, and welfare. Physical custody indicates where the children primarily live, with an agreeable visitation schedule. There are different arrangements for both that are arrived at by mutual agreement or a judge’s decision, backed by a court order.

But what happens when things change? While these arrangements can work seamlessly for years, one parent or the other might want or need to move away. Depending on the distance and your arrangement, Alabama’s child relocation laws will step in to settle any disputes.

What is Considered a Relocation in Alabama?

The state of Alabama considers a relocation to be anything that is more than 60 miles away from the other parent or across state lines. While the custodial parent generally has the right to relocate the children, the noncustodial parent can object to the move.

When custody was first decided, it was based on the assumption that the arrangement was in the best interests of the children. Any further decisions relative to custody will use the same doctrine.

How Child Relocation Proceedings Work

If the custodial parent plans to relocate with the children, the law requires them to do several things. As the relocating parent, you must send a certified letter to your ex at least 45 days prior to the move. And it must include a list of pertinent information:

  • Date of the move
  • Reason for the move
  • The new street and mailing address
  • Details about the children’s new school
  • Suggested changes to the custody or visitation schedule
  • Notice that the other parent has 30 days to object

If your ex does object to this move, they must file a formal notice with the courts within 30 days of receipt of your letter. A hearing will be scheduled and you both must attend to testify about the matter.

When one parent moves, this can re-open the question of who should have primary custody of the children. If your ex objects to the move, it is their responsibility to prove that it would be harmful to the children to let them relocate with you and that a change in custody would be more appropriate.

A word of warning. It is never a good idea to relocate with your children and then ask for permission or “forgiveness” later. The courts can use this as a reason to award custody to your ex, require that you pay for increased visitation costs, or reduce the amount of child support that you receive. Always seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney before moving forward.

Factors Considered by Alabama Courts in Move-Away Cases

The children’s best interests are primary considerations in these decisions. When one parent wants to move a child a significant distance or out of state, the courts will take a variety of factors under consideration:

  • The children’s needs
  • The children’s level of involvement with both parents
  • Each parent’s stability
  • The potential impact of a move on the children’s educational and emotional development
  • The additional travel time for visitation with the noncustodial parent
  • The feasibility of preserving visits or finding alternative visitation
  • The children’s preference (depending on maturity and age)
  • The availability of alternative means of communication with the noncustodial parent
  • Whether there is any history of child abuse or domestic violence
  • Whether the proposed new home is domestic or in another country where U.S. court orders won’t be enforced
  • Other factors that the courts deem relevant

Speak with an Experienced Alabama Family Law Attorney

Child custody and move-away cases can be particularly contentious. Whether your ex has ill intent or not in opposing your move, you have legal rights if you want to move your children more than 60 miles away or across state lines. Unfortunately, this can be a confusing and complex process, and we don’t recommend handling a matter of this level of importance on your own.

At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, LLP, we have extensive experience handling all types of family law issues, and our goal is to protect the rights of you and your children. When you state your intention to move to your ex, it should be done right the first time.

Contact us now at (334) 821-3892 for an initial consultation to discuss your options.

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What Do I Do if My Spouse Violates a Restraining Order or Temporary Injunction?

When a couple gets married, they usually have great hope and optimism about the future. Unfortunately, some relationships grow sour, even to the point where one of the spouses becomes increasingly violent. When domestic abuse occurs, the victim often has no other choice but to take legal action. The best legal mechanism for an abused spouse is a protective order.

What is a Protective Order?

Also known as restraining orders, protective orders are court orders that provide legal protection for individuals who have been harassed, threatened, or physically abused. The order instructs the abuser to stay away completely from the victim, and to stay away from others in the household (if applicable). For example, if you have a temporary protective order (aka temporary injunction) against your spouse, your minor children may also be covered by this order.

Under the Alabama Protection from Abuse Act (PFA), a civil protective order can be obtained against the victim’s spouse, partner, or parent of children they have together. If it is an emergency situation, the court may be able to grant a temporary protection order the day the victim files in court.

A temporary injunction is valid for two weeks, and a hearing should be scheduled within that two-week period to decide whether or not to finalize the protective order and decide related issues as well. A final protective order can be issued at the hearing, which is usually valid for one year unless the court specifies a different period of time.

A protective order can include several provisions (as needed) to provide the appropriate relief to the abused party. These include:

  • Requiring the abuser to move out of the home shared with the victim. This may require a police escort;
  • Ordering the abuser to stay away from the home, work, and/or school of the victim and any minor children;
  • Prohibiting the abuser from threatening, harassing, or abusing the victim, minor children, and/or other household members. This may include prohibition of various types of communication;
  • Awarding temporary custody of children of the victim and abuser who are under the age of 18;
  • Prohibiting the abuser from contact with the children except when legally authorized (most likely under a supervised visitation arrangement);
  • Preventing the abuser from selling jointly-owned property or hiding assets;
  • Requiring the abuser to pay the victim’s legal fees incurred to obtain the protective order or injunction.

One thing a protective order does not do is dissolve a marriage. Although the order can force the abuser to move out of a shared residence, the marriage is still valid until you file for divorce. In this regard, the order functions similarly to a legal separation.

What Happens When a Spouse Violates a Protective Order?

While a protective order gives legal directives to a domestic abuser, there is no guarantee that the abuser will adhere to these directives. There are harsh consequences, however, if an abuser chooses to violate the order. In Alabama, a first-time violation is a Class A misdemeanor with fines of up to $6,000 and up to one year in county jail. A second-time offender receives a minimum of 48 continuous hours in jail, and a third-time offender receives a minimum of 30 days in jail. The abuser can also be found in contempt of court for violating the order.

If your spouse violates a protective order or temporary injunction, you can initiate the enforcement of the order by reporting it to law enforcement and contacting your attorney to file a petition for contempt of court. From there, the abuser may be arrested and charged with a Class A misdemeanor. However, the authorities may decide on a different course of action based on how egregious the violation was. For example, if the abuser is sending repeated texts begging you to reconcile, that is not likely to be treated as seriously as the abuser showing up at your front door belligerent and making threats.

If you are in immediate danger from a protective order violation, call 911 or the police right away. If you need a safe place for you and your children to go, call the Alabama Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline any time 24/7 at 1-800-650-6522.

Speak with an Experienced Alabama Family Law Attorney

No one deserves to live in fear of threats, harassment, or abuse. If you are in this situation, contact the skilled and compassionate attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, LLP at (334) 821-3892 for legal help. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.

How is child support calculated in Alabama? Haygood Cleveland Pierce Thompson & Short

How is Child Support Calculated in Alabama?

If you are currently going through a divorce involving children or you are involved in a paternity case, child support will likely become a central issue that needs to be resolved. Like most other states, the state of Alabama recognizes the obligation of both parents to support their child, whether the parents are married or not. The amount of support the parents are ordered to pay is determined by a complex formula based on a variety of factors.

Alabama “Income Shares” Model

Alabama follows the “income shares” model to establish the support payment for each child. Under this model, each parent should contribute the same proportion of their income (toward the support of their child) as if the parents were together. Using the “income shares” model, the court estimates the amount an intact two-parent family would likely spend on the child, then divides it proportionally between the two parents, based on their respective incomes. The parent with the higher income is responsible to pay a larger percentage of support, and the parent with the lower income is responsible for a smaller percentage.

Child support is calculated with the “income shares” model using a four-step process:

  1. Add the gross incomes of the two parents together to determine the total combined gross income.
  2. Apply the total income from step one to the Alabama Schedule of Basic Support Guidelines by matching the total income with the number of children (as shown on the chart). This gives you the total child support obligation.
  3. Adjust the total child support obligation by adding additional expenses such as extraordinary medical costs, work-related child care expenses, and health insurance.
  4. Take the final support obligation calculation and divide it proportionally between the two parents based on their percentage of the income. For example, if one parent earns 70% of the total combined gross income, they are responsible for 70% of the child support payment. The other parent is then responsible for 30%. It is presumed that the parent the child is living with (custodial parent) spends their percentage of the support payment directly on the child.

Deviations from the “Income Shares” Model

There may be factors and circumstances in which the court allows a deviation from the child support calculated using the four-step process. These may include:

  • Parents who have shared physical custody, or cases in which the non-custodial parent has extensive visitation rights far beyond what is customary;
  • When one parent incurs extraordinary transportation costs in order to visit the child;
  • Unearned income or assets received by (or on behalf) of the child;
  • College expenses incurred after the child reaches the age of majority;
  • Other factors that the court may determine to be in the best interest of the child (for the purposes of child support).

June 2018 Changes to Alabama Child Support Calculations

On June 1, 2018, a new amendment was added to the Alabama Rule 32 Child Support Guidelines. This amendment affects cases in which the child receives third-party payments. One common example would be Social Security payments made to minor children when a parent is on Social Security Disability. Rule 32 now takes the amount paid by a third party to the child and subtracts that amount from the non-custodial parent’s monthly child support obligation.

It is important to note that if you have previously gone through a divorce or paternity case, your child support payment will not be automatically adjusted based on these changes. You will need to speak to an attorney about petitioning the court for a child support modification. Keep in mind also that courts already have the authority to consider unearned income or assets received by (or on behalf of) the child when determining child support, so this may already be factored in to your current payment.

Contact a Skilled Alabama Family Law Attorney

During a divorce or paternity case, it is important to ensure that the children are taken care of. It is also important that support payments are fair and do not put an undue burden on one party or the other. If you are involved in a paternity case or divorce with children in Alabama, or you want to modify your current support payments, you need experienced legal counsel by your side strongly advocating for your rights and interests, and the interests of your child(ren).

At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce Thompson & Short LLP, we have several decades of experience handling divorce and family law cases in Alabama. Our lawyers have an in-depth understanding of this area of law, and we work closely with our clients to resolve family legal matters in a way that fully protects their interests while preserving important relationships. For a consultation with our office, call us today at (334) 821-3892, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.