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.