The long held standard in child custody orders - as many divorced parents know - is to ensure the best interests of the child are met. Typically, this leads to a custody order that allows the child to spend some time with each parent. The time each parent spends with their child, however, does not have to be equal - and often it is not.
For many parents, a standard custody plan means seeing their children every other weekend and maybe once or twice in between. Some Alabama legislators are hoping to change that.
Setting a new standard
Senate Bill 186, if passed, would create a new standard for child custody. It would require judges to award joint custody with approximately equal parenting time in most custody cases. Judges could only deviate from this standard if there is clear and convincing evidence that one parent is unfit to care for the child based on a history of neglect, abuse or abandonment.
Why are legislators seeking a change?
Under current laws, judges are allowed to order a standard custody plan at the beginning of a case. As we mentioned above, a standard custody plan often means the child spends more time with one parent than the other. Some lawmakers and others feel that children benefit from spending equal time with both parents.
What else should parents know?
In addition to setting a new custody standard, the bill would also give parents the chance to create their own parenting plan. This means you and your spouse would have the opportunity to work out a custody plan that fits your needs, your schedule and the needs of your child. Although parents can do this now, it is not required.
What if you're going through a divorce now?
If you are going through a divorce or child custody matter now, this bill may not affect you. While it will be interesting to see what happens with SB 186, it is important to take steps to protect yourself in the meantime.
By working with an experienced family law attorney, you can help ensure your rights and your child's best interests are protected. An attorney can explain your options under current laws and help you seek a custody plan that works for you and your child.