Alabama Child Custody Law – Principal Residence

Alabama Child Custody Law Related to Principal Residence

A common question from parties with children divorcing is whether a parent is able to move the children. Several years ago, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decided a case called Pamela Hubbard v James C. Hubbard. It was a family law case that addressed the ability of a mother to move out of Alabama with the children. In this case, the father filed for divorce in 2013. During the divorce action, the mother requested that the court allow her to move to New Jersey with the children, arguing that relocating the children was in their best interests. The father argued that if the children moved to New Jersey, then he could not see them given the distance and his inability to afford airfare. In this case, after considering the evidence, the court decided that the mother could not move to New Jersey with the children. As you are likely aware, the evidence and circumstances of each custody situation differs. Therefore, while discussing the specific facts of the Hubbard case may not be useful, a brief discussion on some relevant law can be instructive when considering the overall topic of determining a child’s principal residence.

Best Interest of the Child

Alabama has codified its child custody laws. Most of the outcomes regarding the custody of children after divorce or similar proceedings hinge upon what is in the “best interest of the child.” That is what the court and Alabama law asks, and the parties must respond. When determining what the best interest of a child might be, depending upon the circumstances, the courts look at things such as whether there has been a history of child abuse by one of the parents, the ability of one parent to encourage love and affection between the children and the other parent, and more. As briefly explained below, the “best interest of the child” makes an appearance elsewhere, in addition to the initial custody determination.

Changing the Child’s Principal Place of Residence

Although during the child’s life, the parents may have issues regarding child support, that is not necessarily the only issue that a post-divorce relationship may encounter. There are times when a parent who has physical custody may want to move away from the other parent and take the child with him or her, thereby changing the principal residence of the child. Alabama actually has a set of laws dealing with this exact issue in what is called the Alabama Parent-Child Relationship Protection Act. Through it, the state pushes the general philosophy that even after divorce, children need both parents. Therefore, unless there is violence or child abuse involved, according to the state, it is not in the best interest of the child to change his or her primary residence. That is the presumption. However, the parent who intends to change residence can try to argue against it by explaining why the court’s conclusion and Alabama’s presumption would be incorrect in his or her specific circumstances and the move would actually be in the best interest of the child.

Need Legal Advice?

Legal situations involving children typically involve many emotions. You love your children and want the best for them. Let us help you give them the best. If you are contemplating divorce, fighting for custody, looking to change your children’s principal place of residence, or anything in between, then let the family and domestic relations law team here at Massey, Stotser, & Nichols, PC take a look at the specifics of your case. 


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