Leave Joint Custody Alone

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has ordered an equal time parenting arrangement to stay in place, overruling the trial court’s award of sole custody. The case is Watters v. Watters, Case No. 2030530, (Ala. Civ. App. Feb. 4, 2005).

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the ruling from Mobile Circuit Court that a previously agreed upon and court ordered plan for equal time parenting should be changed to sole custody for the mother because of a material change in circumstances. The Court of Appeals rejected the trial court’s finding of a material change in circumstances and made its own finding that no such change had occurred.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals mentioned evidence from the trial that the child behaved better during those times he was with his father, that the child was tardy less for school when his father brought him, and that the father was more involved in PTA and other school-related activities. The Court of Appeals also mentioned evidence that the father had initiated and participated more actively in speech therapy when the child developed a problem with his speaking.

The Court of Appeals made no mention of the ore tenus rule (which holds that the when the trial court hears testimony in a nonjury case, its judgement based on that evidence is presumed correct absent a showing that it is plainly and palpably wrong or manifestly unjust).

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