Overview of Alabama Courts
In order to find Alabama court records, it's helpful to understand how the state court system works. Each state varies and we've compiled this information to help your search. You can also start your search by going directly to courts by county.
The Alabama trial court system consists of Circuit Courts, District Courts, Probate Courts, and Municipal Courts.
Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases but usually handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. District Courts, Probate Courts and Municipal Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases.
Criminal cases handled by Circuit Courts include most felony cases, some misdemeanors and some lesser-included offenses. Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with District Courts over guilty pleas in felony cases that do not include a death penalty.
Circuit Courts have original jurisdiction to hear all civil cases when the amount in dispute is more than $10,000, excluding interest and costs. Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with District Courts for most civil cases involving amounts between $3000 and $10,000 in dispute, exclusive of interest and costs. Most domestic relations cases are heard in Circuit Courts.
Circuit Courts and District Courts have divisions for Juvenile Court and share jurisdiction over juvenile cases. When Circuit Courts or District Courts handle juvenile cases, these judges sit as a Juvenile Court and a separate docket is maintained. In some counties, Juvenile Court is called Family Court. In some counties, Family Court may hear paternity, child custody, and child support cases as well as Juvenile Court cases.
Circuit Courts may hear claims involving less than $3000 when a District Court lacks jurisdiction over a certain type of claim, including some cases that request certain types of equitable relief and actions for negligence against municipalities. Circuit Courts do not offer a simplified Small Claims court process, and civil cases that are eligible for the simplified Small Claims procedure are within the exclusive jurisdiction of District Court.
Circuit Courts can receive some cases from Probate Courts, including the administration of estates and some involuntary commitment cases, if proper requests for a transfer are made and granted.
Criminal cases handled by District Courts include most misdemeanors, some ordinance violations, preliminary hearings for felony cases, and guilty pleas in felony cases that do not include a death penalty.
Some misdemeanors and ordinance violations may be heard by Circuit Courts as lesser-included offenses in a felony case, or if an indictment for a misdemeanor has been returned by a grand jury. District Courts will generally only handle ordinance violations if no Municipal Court exists in the area, and shares jurisdiction with Municipal Courts over criminal acts that violate state laws but can also be prosecuted as municipal ordinance violations.
Civil cases handled by District Courts include general civil cases when the amount in dispute is less than $10,000, excluding interest and costs. District Courts share jurisdiction with Circuit Courts over most civil cases that involve amounts in dispute between $3000 and $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs. District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over Small Claims cases, which are most civil cases that involve less than $3000 in dispute, excluding interest and costs.
District Courts share jurisdiction over juvenile cases with Circuit Courts and can receive certain cases, such as adoptions, from the Probate Court if a proper request is made and granted. When Circuit Courts or District Courts hear juvenile cases, these judges sit as a Juvenile Court and a separate docket is maintained. In some counties, Juvenile Court is called Family Court. In some counties, Family Court may hear paternity, child custody, and child support cases as well as Juvenile Court cases.
District Courts offer a simplified Small Claims procedure for eligible cases involving less than $3000 in dispute. Cases that are beyond the limits of District Court jurisdiction are heard in Circuit Courts, even if the amount of money in dispute is less than $3000. For example, District Courts do not have jurisdiction over certain types of equitable relief, including declaratory judgments, and District Courts are prohibited from exercising jurisdiction over certain types of cases, including actions for negligence against municipalities.
Certain types of cases can be transferred out of Probate Courts to Circuit Courts or District Courts, if a proper request is made and granted. Circuit Courts may handle cases related to the administration of estates, some involuntary commitment cases, some guardianships, some adoptions and other types of probate cases. A District Court may handle some guardianships, some adoptions and other cases related to the exercise of jurisdiction as a Juvenile Court.
Although the Probate Court has original and general jurisdiction over name changes, cases involving changes of name may be part of divorce, adoption or other similar cases, so records of such name changes may exist in other courts.
District Courts will generally only handle ordinance violations if no Municipal Court has territorial jurisdiction over the offense. Ordinance violations may be heard by Circuit Courts and District Courts as lesser-included offenses.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||Circuit Courts||District Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|