Alabama Child Custody Law Tabled, Leaving Some Parents Upset

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Jun 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Anniston Star recently reported that a senate bill, which would have taken away much of the court's discretion in deciding custody matters of children in Birmingham divorce cases, was put off when lawmakers were sent home until next legislative session.

Child custody issues are among the most bitterly contested points that Birmingham Divorce Lawyers see because many parents going through a divorce are more concerned with being able to see and influence their children than their own financial stability. And for that reason, our divorce lawyers use their expertise to take the emotion out of a divorce, study the case and do our best to ensure our clients are able to see their children as much as possible after a divorce is settled.

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The newspaper highlighted the case of a father who said he pays child support and after getting divorced, agreed to weekend visitations, assuming that as his 2-year-old son gets older he will be able to modify the court order. But the man said his ex-wife, who has custody of their son, has disappeared recently, changing phone numbers, quitting her job and leaving town.

The man blames Alabama's lopsided child custody laws, which he said favors mothers over fathers. Supporters of Alabama Senate Bill 196, which would have taken away much of the court's discretion in these types of cases, said it was a step in the right direction.

The legislation, previously discussed in Alabama Divorce & Family Law Attorney Blog, would have required judges to award equal time to both parents. Many father's rights groups believed the bill, if it became law, would have helped to equal a perceived bias against them and ensure their relationship isn't stunted by antiquated custody arrangements.

The bill would have penalized parents who were deemed unfit, but divorcing parents by and large would have to create a custody arrangement. Without an agreement, the judge would order joint custody with equal time.

According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources, 29 percent of Alabama's families in 2000 were headed by a single parent. That's compared to 27 percent nationwide. Also, 40 percent of children whose fathers live outside the home have no contact with them and of the other 60 percent, they see their children an average of 69 days each year.

Currently in Alabama, the law recognizes three forms of custody — temporary custody, legal custody and physical custody. Temporary custody is entered by the court at the time of a divorce filing. Legal custody is ordered when the final marital agreement is entered and courts look for parents who cooperate to determine what decisions will be made for children. Physical custody determines where the child will actually live and how often the child or children will see the other parent.

These are obviously important matters to parents and the 50-50 custody bill, also known as Alabama Children's Family Act, will make it much easier, if lawmakers decide to continue pursuing it. While the court should retain final discretion in such cases, evening the playing field for fathers would be a positive step in the right direction.

If you need to speak with a child custody lawyer in Birmingham, contact Eversole Law at 205-981-2450 for a free consultation.

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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