Since 2003, every custody determination must include with the order of custody the language of the Alabama Parent-Child Relationship Protection Act, otherwise known as the “relocation act.” The Act was implemented to promote the “general philosophy in this state that children need both parents, even after divorce.” It requires relocating parents to take certain procedural steps prior to any change in their principal address, to ensure that children have access to both parents. The most important thing to remember about the Act is to carefully follow the instructions laid out in the Act.
The Act requires any party, whether they have primary physical custody or visitation rights, to notify the other party prior to moving more than sixty (60) miles or more from the residence of the non-relocating party. Notice must also be given where the move is less than sixty (60) miles from the non-relocating parent, but will result in the child living in another state. This notice must be sent by certified mail forty-five (45) days prior to the intended move. If for some reason, you do not know of the relocation insufficient time to provide a forty-five (45) day notice, you must give notice by certified mail no later than the 10th day after you know you’re moving.
The notice must contain very specific information, such as: (1) the intended new residence, including the specific address if known; (2) the mailing address, if not the same as the street address; (3) the telephone number or numbers at such residence, if known; (4) if applicable, the name, address, and telephone number of the school to be attended by the child, if known; (5) the date of the intended change of principal residence of a child; (6) a statement of specific reasons for the proposed change of principal residence of a child, if applicable; (7) a proposal for a revised schedule of custody of or visitation with a child, if any, and; (8) a warning to the non-relocating person that an objection to the relocation must be made within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice or the relocation will be permitted. There are certain exceptions if you are under Military orders.
Failure to notify the non-relocating party of an intended change in principal residence may be considered in a subsequent case. On the other hand, if the non-relocating party receives the notice required by the Act and doesn’t file an objection within thirty (30) days, the change of principal residence is authorized.
If the non-relocating party does object, a hearing will be held to determine whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child. In cases where the court approves the change in residence, it will require “contact between the child and the non-relocating party and telephone access sufficient to assure that the child has frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the non-relocating party.” Issues of transportation cost of the child for visitation will also be decided based upon the facts of the case. The court may determine that a deviation from the child support guidelines should be considered in light of all factors, including the costs of transporting the child for visitation.
It is very important for both parties/parents to abide by this Act. Failing to give notice or to object to the Act could result in you losing custodial time with your child. The courts have discretion when determining whether you violated the Act and tend to frown on situations where you willfully defy the Act. It is best for all parties involved, including your minor children, if you abide by the Act and give notice.
If you have any questions concerning the Alabama Parent-Child Relationship Act, please call our office at (334) 373-2981.