With traditional gender roles shifting—more women in the workforce and more fathers staying at home—it is no surprise that the law is trying to catch up. In the event of a divorce, the law and courts have generally favored mothers when it comes to awarding custody. Now advocacy groups and legislators are taking action to protect fathers' rights, especially those who have more active roles as parents.
According to research by the National Parents Organization, children do better emotionally and academically when they have active involvement from both parents. Children who are cut off from seeing their fathers or who do not have a balanced custody arrangement can suffer. Our Birmingham fathers' rights attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients achieve custody arrangements that serve the best interests of their children.
A recent NPR article interviewed activists in favor of a change in laws to reflect the shift in fathers' roles. According to child advocates, the most beneficial custody arrangements favor joint custody, rather than giving full custody to one parent. Children can benefit from sharing time with both parents, so long as parents are fit and there is no abuse, substance abuse or domestic violence. Alabama legislatures are turning to other states where measures have already passed to favor more shared custody, including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida and Minnesota. These new laws give equal rights to fathers at a time when more women are entering the workforce and more men are responsible for caregiving duties.
Despite advocacy groups in favor of this direction, two governors have struck down similar measures and other state legislators have failed to pass the bills. There are some groups that do not favor shared custody bills, primarily because they are seen as individual parents' interests taking priority over the children. Opponents of such measures point to custody arrangements where children are forced to travel back and forth despite long-distances, after school activities, or even just the stability enjoyed when living in one home.
In joint-custody cases, 50-50 time shares can be difficult for parents and create adjustment problems for children as well. A compromise in South Dakota removes the presumption of joint custody, but requires that courts weigh in on the logistics of a joint custody arrangement to ensure that parents get along in the presence of a child. The bill focuses on creating beneficial joint arrangements, but requires parents to look at their behavior for the benefit of the children.
Whether you are a father seeking shared custody or you are interested in exploring your custody rights in Alabama, it is important to have a clear understanding of the legal system. Courts will always weigh parental interests against the best interests of the child, so it is important to work with an advocate who can align those interests. Most custody arrangements are settled out of court, but if you are forced into a custody battle, remember that the results will be decided on a case by case basis.
Contact Birmingham divorce and family law attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.