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Alabama Child Custody Laws on Parental Relocation

Mom and Son

Parenting is not easy. In custody disputes, the mother and father often both feel like they are the better parent. It is only natural to want custody of your child, but sometimes the road to custody can be rocky.

In juvenile court in Madison County, Alabama, the recent case of F.C. v. S.J.M. shows just how difficult resolving custody in a friendly manner can be. In this case, the father completed a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” when the child was born in 2008. The mother and father were never married and did not seek a custody judgment, and the child lived with the mother until 2016. In March of 2016, the father filed a petition for custody asking for a judgment of paternity, sole physical custody of the child, and an award of child support from the mother. In turn, the mother filed a claim asking for sole custody of the child, child support from the father, and retroactive child support for the previous eight years.

At trial, conflicting evidence was presented. The father testified that he had been employed for the past seven years; that the child was enrolled in private school, which he funded; and that the child benefited from a full range of after-school activities. In contrast, the father’s cousin testified that he had lived with the mother for a six-month period, and during that time the mother did not care for the child. Instead, the mother allegedly stayed out until the early morning each night and slept until noon the next day.

The testimony of the mother and her family did not fully contradict this version of events. The mother’s parents, who lived in Virginia, testified that the mother was not employed, but they supported her anyway. They stated that they would prefer the mother move to Virginia so they could more directly care for her and the child; however, they would continue to support the mother in Alabama. The mother was insistent, however, that she planned to move to Virginia.

Based on these facts, the trial court awarded primary physical custody to the father and ordered the mother to pay $237 per month in child support. The mother appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals agreed with the trial court. Looking at the evidence, the appeals court noted severe potential disruption to the child by moving to Virginia, which would take her out of school and away from the father’s family. The court noted that disruption, weighted against the negative effects of taking the child away from her mother, made the trial court’s decision justifiable.

The main takeaway is that Alabama courts may look poorly on a parent seeking custody who wants to completely uproot the child and move to another state. It is important to seek an experienced child custody attorney who understands the realities of Alabama custody law. If you need a child custody lawyer, contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for help with your custody case.

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