I Have an Ex Parte Protection Order: How Do I Get Custody of My Children?

Authored By: Legal Services Alabama


When can I get custody of my children?

  • At the hearing on your PFA petition, the judge will decide who gets custody.
  • This hearing will be about two weeks after you filed the case.

My husband says he will get custody. Will he?

  • An abuser often says that if his victim ever leaves him, he will get custody of the children.
  • In fact, most men do not even ask for legal custody.
  • They threaten to get custody to try and keep you in the relationship.
  • Even if he gets a lawyer and asks for custody, it is very hard for him to get custody if he has been violent with you or other family members.

What can I do to make it more likely I'll get custody?

Will my husband get visitation with the children?

  • Yes. Your husband will get visitation as long as he has a suitable place for the visitation, and he can take proper care of your children. It is very hard to prove that he can't.
  • The judge usually grants what is called standard visitation.

What is standard visitation?

  • This varies from county to county. Generally, you can expect alternating weekends; alternating holidays; possibly Mother's and Father's Day and/or the parent's birthday; and possibly extended visitation in the summer. 
  • You can ask your county clerk's office for the standard visitation schedule or ask the judge for it when you are in court, if it is not given to you anyway. 

Can I keep my husband from getting standard visitation?

  • This is hard. Most judges want children to spend time with both parents.
  • Sometimes, the judge will give less visitation if your children are infants or very young.
  • If you can prove that your husband would be likely to harm or neglect your children if they were left in his care, you can get his visitation supervised.
  • If you are worried about your children being alone with your husband, be sure to talk with your lawyer or shelter worker early about this. Make sure they know what you are afraid might happen. And why.
  • You will need to get evidence to show why you and your children would be at risk.
  • This can include eyewitness testimony, any records of abuse, records of your husband's past criminal behavior and any drug/alcohol abuse, pictures, or medical records. 

How does supervised visitation work?

  • You usually have to find someone that you trust to supervise the visitation.
  • Some sheriff's offices and police stations have rooms for supervised visitation.
  • Some places also have special supervised visitation family centers. There is usually a fee to use such services. 
  • Under no circumstances can you supervise the visitation. Supervised visitation cannot be in your home.
  • During any visitation, your husband has a chance to hurt you.
  • Do what you can to stay safe. Do not let your abuser take advantage of visitation to harm, threaten or try to control you.

Should I let my husband visit with the children before I get custody?

  • This is usually a bad idea.
  • If you let him have the children for a visit, he may not return them.
  • If he doesn't bring the children back, you may not see them until after the hearing.
  • Talk to your lawyer or shelter worker before letting your children visit your husband.
  • Think of other ways to let your husband know the children are safe.
  • You could let him talk to the children over the phone.
  • You could pass information through someone your husband trusts.

What if my husband does not bring the children back after a weekend?

  • You should call the police or the sheriff. See if they will help you.
  • If you do not get the children Sunday evening, you can get a court order on Monday telling the sheriff pick the children up and return them to you.


AlabamaLegalHelp.org offers legal information, not legal advice. This website provides information on your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call toll-free 1-866-456-4995. You can also apply online HERE.

Last Review and Update: Nov 20, 2019
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