Law Would Award Joint Custody in Most Alabama Child Custody Cases

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Apr 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

A proposed law before the legislature would require judges to award equal time to both parents in most Alabama child custody cases, according to The Huntsville Times.

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Many divorce lawyers in Birmingham and elsewhere recognize the need to do more to ensure both parents remain a part of a child's life, whenever possible, and whenever it's in the best interests of a child. Alabama divorce law already favors joint custody, at least officially. The problem is that far too many judges award primary custody to one parent — falling back on the old every-other-weekend, rotating holidays and two weeks in the summer for the other parent, typically the father.

From a standpoint of father's rights, more needs to be done to ensure their relationship with their children is not stunted by antiquated custody arrangements. The problem with the current proposal is that it attempts to outline mandates, which will too often not be in a child's best interests unless a judge has the final say.

The proposed Alabama Children's Family Act  (Senate Bill 196 and House Bill 316) would require equal parenting time unless one parent is deemed unfit. Divorcing parents would be required to create a parenting plan designating the custody arrangement. If the parents can't agree, the judge would order joint custody with equal time regardless of where the parents live.

Joint custody can be the ideal arrangement — if both parents want it — in cases where parents live near each other and are in the same school district. In other cases, it is not in a child's best interest. Critics of the current proposal argue that it seems to address what is in the best interest of the parents, not the child.

Twenty nine percent of families with children are headed by single parents in Alabama. And the state now has the fourth-highest rate of divorce in the nation. Madison County alone handles more than 1,700 divorce cases each year.

The proposal would also allow material gifts to count toward child support and would create an every-other-year arrangement to designate a parent responsible for making major decisions in a child's life. It would also raise the burden of proof in determining whether a parent is unfit — requiring "clear and convincing evidence"

If you need to speak to a divorce lawyer in Birmingham, contact Steven D. Eversole for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 866-831-5292 or 205-981-2450.

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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