Alabama Relocation Statute
When determining the visitation rights for a noncustodial parent after a divorce, trial courts have broad control. They can make specific schedules laying out when the noncustodial parent is allowed to visit or just generally grant the noncustodial parent the right to visit at reasonable times and places as prescribed by the child’s health, education, and welfare. Trial courts can even provide for visitation rights when both parents have agreed to no visitation. The Alabama Relocation Statute addresses the relocation of one parent after a divorce. It is a very dense statute with nearly 5,000 words, but a simple summary is that it requires a parent who is moving to provide notice to the other parent before doing so. The other parent has a right to object to the move, which will lead to a hearing.
When a custodial parent wants to move and bring the children with them, there are two major factors to consider. First, there are the interests of the custodial parent. The child may also experience an improved life in the new area, so their interests must be considered. Second are the interests of the noncustodial parent and the child’s ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with them.
The Alabama Relocation Statute requires that one parent must notify the other before moving to a location more than 60 miles from the other parent’s address, unless the moves brings the children closer to that other parent. They must also provide notice before moving to a different state. The parent must use certified mail to provide this notice. The notice must occur at least 45 days before the move or within 10 days after learning of the move. The notice must include: the address and phone number of the new residence, the name of the new school the children will be attending, the date and specific reasons for the move, a proposal for revising custody and visitation, and a warning that the other parent must object to the move within 30 days or it will be permitted. If the other parent properly objects to the move in the 30 day time allotment then the court may delay the move until after a hearing.
The duty of the judge at said hearing is to determine if the move is in the best interest of the child. The statute sets up a presumption that a move is not in the best interest of the child, however this can be overcome by the relocating parent showing that the benefits available to the child at the new location surpass the benefits available at the previous location. Assuming that most noncustodial parents are fathers, this statute works to tilt the balance of custody determinants in these cases toward the “father’s rights” perspective.
The Relocation Statute has several surprising consequences. First, it requires that every decree addressing child custody henceforth include a page long statement about the statute. Second, it requires that notice be provided any time that a parent is moving across state lines, even if the move brings the children closer to the other parent. Third, it requires judges to order contact and phone access between the child and the noncustodial parent to assure “frequent, continuing, and meaningful” contact. This is the case even in the cases of previous violence or other trauma between the parent and child. Lastly, the statute requires that notice be given when anyone with custodial or visitation rights decides to relocate. This means that noncustodial parents will likely violate this statue unknowingly.