The Alabama Parent-Child Relationship Protection Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act) promotes the general philosophy that children need both parents, even after a divorce, and applies to all orders determining custody or visitation of a child in Alabama.
When both parents have either custody or visitation rights with a child, then each must provide the other with notice of any intended change in their primary residence or the primary residence of the minor child.
That notice should be sent by certified mail at least 45 days before the intended move unless they did not know and could not have known 45 days in advance. In such a case, if they cannot reasonably extend the date of the move, they must provide the required notice within 10 days of learning the relevant information.
The information that must be provided in the notice to the other parent is as follows:
- The intended new residence, including the specific street address, if known.
- The mailing address, if not the same as the street address.
- The telephone number or numbers at such residence, if known.
- If applicable, the name, address, and telephone number of the school to be attended by the child, if known.
- The date of the intended change of principal residence of a child.
- A statement of the specific reasons for the proposed change of principal residence of a child, if applicable.
- A proposal for a revised schedule of custody of or visitation with a child, if any.
- A warning to the non-relocating person that an objection to the relocation must be made within 30 days of receipt of the notice or the relocation will be permitted. (This warning does not need to be included when a person entitled to custody of a child who is on active military service in the Armed Forces of the United States of America and is being transferred or relocated because of a non-voluntary order of the government.)
What Happens If I Fail to Give Proper Notice?
There are some exceptions to the disclosure requirements for victims of domestic violence when a court determines that the health, safety, or liberty of a parent or child would be unreasonably put at risk by disclosing the information otherwise required in order to be in compliance with the Act.
Exceptions aside, the court will take into account any failure to provide notice as required by the Act when making any future determinations.
Some of these determinations can center on the following issues:
- Whether or not to allow a change of residence of a child
- Whether or not to modify custody or visitation
- Whether or not to order the child be returned to the former residence if the child was taken without notice
- Whether or not there should be a deviation for the child support guidelines
- Whether or not to award increase transportation and communication expenses with a child
- Whether or not to award attorney fees to the parent object to the change.
In addition, failure to provide proper notice can result in the court finding a party in contempt of court and imposing sanctions.
What If the Other Parent Doesn’t Agree with the Relocation?
If a parent receiving notice does not agree with the proposed change in the child’s primary residence and the proposed relocation is across state lines or is more than 60 miles from his or her residence (and further away than the current residence), then the parent receiving notice has the right to object to the relocation.
Objections must be filed with the court. It is not enough to object to the other parent.
When proper notice has been provided, a custodial parent may change the child’s residence as proposed if the other parent does not file an objection with the court within thirty days of receiving the notice.
When a parent objects to a proposed relocation, the court can enter a temporary order prohibiting the relocation or ordering the return of the child if the relocation has already taken place. The court can also enter a temporary order permitting the proposed relocation if the required notice was timely provided and the court determines after a hearing that there is a likelihood that the relocation will be approved in the final hearing.
In hearings under the Act, there is a rebuttable presumption that a change in the child’s principal residence is not in the best interest of the child (except when the parent objection to the change has been found to have committed domestic violence or child abuse). The party seeking to change the child’s principal residence has the initial burden of proof. If they meet that burden of proof, the burden of proof then shifts to the parent objection to the change.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
Relocation of a child can be a confusing and complex issue. If you are contemplating relocation or want to object to a proposed relocation of your child’s primary residence you should seek the advice of a licensed attorney.
We at Rebekah L. Graham & Associates can help. For more information about our legal services, contact us online.