What Are Child Custody Laws in Alabama?

Familiarize yourself with joint custody and best interests of the child

A girl showing her parents something on an iPad
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Child custody laws are something most people hope they never have to deal with but if you have to it's best to be prepared. Most courts favor keeping families together which means gaining sole custody can be difficult. While child custody laws vary from state to state there are many similarities, this does mean you'll want to familiarize yourself with Alabama's laws.

Family courts in Alabama use several factors to determine child custody. Primarily, Alabama prefers to award custody to both parents, encouraging them to share the responsibilities and rights associated with raising a child. This is ideal for most children but isn't always the safest option for all. The courts will act in the best interest of the child regardless of the parent's wishes. 

Joint Custody

An Alabama court may order joint custody with or without the consent of both parents when it serves the child's best interests. In Alabama, joint custody may be joint legal custody and joint physical custody, or just joint legal custody. The court considers several factors when determining whether joint custody serves the best interests of the child:

  • Each parent's agreement or lack of agreement on joint custody
  • Any history of child abuse, spousal abuse, or kidnapping
  • Each parent's geographical proximity to each other, as it relates to the possibility of joint physical custody
  • Each parent's ability to encourage love and affection between the child and the other parent
  • Each parent's ability to cooperate and communicate with one another and to make joint decisions

Domestic Violence

If an Alabama court determines that domestic violence has occurred, the court will presume that it is not in the best interests of the child to be placed in the sole custody or joint legal or physical custody of the person accused of domestic or family violence. A judge in an Alabama court may also determine what kind of impact any domestic violence had on the child such as does the child fear the parent responsible for domestic violence? Does the child have anxiety, recurrent nightmares or need counseling as a result? The court will take this kind of trauma into consideration when making their decision. 

Relocation and Child Custody in Alabama

If a parent hopes to relocate with a child, the court will consider the following factors:

  • The quality of the relationship between the child and the parent who is requesting a relocation, the child's other parent, and the child's other family members
  • The child's age and needs - the court will give special consideration to special needs children
  • The child's preference, considering the child's age and maturity level
  • Whether the relocation will enhance the child and the custodial parent's quality of life, including financial, emotional, or educational opportunities
  • The availability and cost of alternative means of communication between the child and the parent who is not relocating
  • The reasons that the parties are seeking or opposing a move

For more information about child custody in Alabama, speak with an attorney in Alabama or refer to the Alabama Domestic Relations Code.