Presumption of Equal Time Parenting

The Alabama legislature is considering a bill that would lock most children of divorce into equal time parenting, in which they would travel each week (or each month or whatever) between their Mom’s house and their Dad’s house. The bill is HB 650. The formatting doesn’t translate well on my blog, so the best way to read the bill is to go to the State Legislature web site, click on Search and then Keyword, and then search for 30-3-150. The legislature’s web site doesn’t work with FoxFire, only Internet Explore.

The bill would replace the current approach to joint custody, in which judges have discretion to structure parenting plans based on what they believe is in the best interest of the child. At the same time, the bill would require every divorcing couple with children, even parents who agree on how to parent their children, to develop lengthy and complex parenting plans. This will not change significantly the cost of adversarial divorce but will increase the cost for parents who are cooperative.

No one is talking about this yet, but they will be: the bill would also give noncustodial fathers everywhere a way to reduce their child support drastically. Given the experience in other states with this kind of legislation, here is the scenasrio as it is shaping up. Armed with this new legislation, noncustodial fathers will storm back to court in droves, demanding their equal time with the children and the sharply reduced child support that goes with it. Then those fathers (many of whom don’t use the time awarded to them now) will move on with their lives, still not spending much time with their children and now paying less child support.

The custodial mothers, lacking the money to pay lawyers to litigate for child support and precluded by this new law from getting a custody award that reflects reality, will fall further into poverty. It’s not pretty.

It doesn’t touch on the child support issue, but There’s a nice article about the opposing arguments about this proposal in this morning’s Montgomery Advertiser.

7 comments

  1. Stephanie Chance says:

    Your article on the Alabama shared parenting bill makes me sick. How can you be so biased against fathers when you are a man yourself? To say that men would use this bill just to decrease child support and to assume that most don’t even spend the time with their children that they are allowed. I don’t know anything about you, but judging by your comments, you sound like a step-father. There is nothing wrong with step-fathers, but there is something wrong with judging people about whom you know nothing, or about whom all you’ve heard are negative comments. I am glad that I read these comments, however, so I know not to hire you should I ever need a lawyer. All people have equal protection under the law, but you certainly don’t seem to feel that way. You obviously have not even read the bill which states that the parents shall have a parenting plan in place and if either parent should deviate from the parenting plan, it would be a basis for modifying custody. So if a father did get shared custody and then did not spend any time with their children, the mother would be able to get sole custody back, and she probably wouldn’t even have to pay for the lawyer since she could put it in the papers that since it was his fault, he should pay the fees. You are also sexist in assuming that women depend on men for their financial support and that we can’t make it without their money. There are also men who can’t afford lawyers when they pay so much child support they can’t afford to eat and never get to see their children at all because of a vindictive ex-spouse. There are also women who take off and never have anything to do with their kids, leaving the fathers to raise the children without any child support. You just want the adversarial divorce system to continue so you can get more money when the parents battle it out in court. God forbid people settle their own problems themselves without putting the children through the stress of the arguing and parents going to court. Don’t you think the money spent on lawyers and court costs would be better spent on the children? You don’t even talk about children in your article. All you say is that divorced fathers are selfish scum and divorced mothers are poor victims of society. You just want to scare people into keeping the system the way it is so judges can continue to order outrageous child support amounts to fuel the divorce industry that judges and lawyers and politicians have created. It’s not about fairness and the best interest for the children with you guys, it’s about money, the matching funds the federal government gives the state for child support collected. And you are scared to death that shared parenting will take your cash cow away. You are allowing families to be ripped apart for your own financial gain. I shouldn’t even waste my time on this, but I don’t want you to believe that people are actually falling for your crap.

  2. Heath Barnett says:

    I am a non-custodial father, though not by choice. Three years ago my wife became involved with another man, filed for divorce then moved, with my four children, 30 miles away to the city in which he lives to await HIS divorce so that they could be married. Like almost all cases in my state she was awarded custody of the children and I was given the privilege of paying child support to help support them. In return for my child support I am ALLOWED to see my children 4 days a month. If you are keeping score that is one day a month per child. I bring home $1500 per month after taxes (taxes that I receive no break from for child support) and I pay $1088 per month in child support. That is 72% of my take home pay. By federal law they can only garnish 60% of my pay from my check so each month I must pay the additional 12% to the Payment Center in my state. When I was married I played ball with my son, tutored my daughter with her math homework (she has a slight problem with math) and was involved with EVERY activity the children did. Since the divorce my daughter’s grades (particularly in math) have dropped, my son has behavioral problems that he never had before, and my four year old and two year old daughter have anger and separation anxiety issues. I wanted shared custody when my wife divorced me but there is no such thing in Alabama. I have joint custody which as you see means nothing in Alabama. We are trying to pass a law (HB650) where shared parenting will be an option in our state because we ARE thinking about the children not about the individual needs of one parent or the other. My children are my life. Their happiness and well-being are the only major concerns I have in my life! If passed I will be able to move to my children’s present location, be a part of their community and positive influence in their lives. As well as assume ALL of my parental duties and RESPONSIBILITIES. My two biggest supporters in this effort are my oldest children: Rebecca age:10 and Connor age:7. Who have constantly requested equal time with me since the divorce. They know about the ‘Bill’ daddy is supporting in the State House of Representatives and what it will do for them and to them I am a hero. I told my daughter how much hard work is involved in passing a bill like this through the government. Her words: “But you can’t give up Daddy, we need you…”
    Will this plan reduce the amount of child support I pay? As far as the government is concerned yes. The reason Alabama rips families apart after divorce is to earn the federal incentive money that comes from collecting child support. Would I be paying less in support of my children? No and I would be able to give them the support they truly need, especially after divorce, my time and my love, as well as the time, love, and support of others in my family who have hardly been afforded the opportunity to see them since my divorce. Do you not believe that children deserve all of the support and advantages they are entitled to? There are many fathers who love their children and want to be part of their lives. It would not work in all cases and unfortunately not all fathers would take advantage of the law we are trying to pass, but in cases where the children have two loving parents who are involved and only want what is best for the children it should at least be an option. Shared parenting does not take support away from children it gives back the support our archaic system has deprived them of for too long.
    This is an issue that I and my children feel strongly about. Everything I have ever done, which includes paying my full child support amount every month on-time, I have done for them. Which is why I intend to support this issue until it passes. Not to mention I can’t quit now. Rebecca made me pinky swear.

    Sincerely,
    Heath Barnett
    Father of Rebecca, Connor, Kaelyn and Sabrina

  3. a loving step-mother says:

    I am outraged by how you show fathers to be awful men who don’t see their children and are sitting on wads of cash hiding it from custodial mothers. I am married to a wonderful man with three amazing children by his first wife. We pay every month, with out fail, $780. His ex-wife does not work, will not allow the children to mention either one of us around her or their “new daddy”, and calls and is tired of them annoying her so we drive 80 miles (one way) to go and get them. She does not give them baths, the youngest is 3 oldest 6, cut finger nails or toe nails, will not take my stepson to tutoring that was strongly recommended by the school and refuses to pay any medical bills. My husband makes only about $1,810 a month and we drive 640 miles total in one month just to see them for a few days and give them a good scrubbing and trim their nails. By the way she is the one that cheated and left for “new daddy”. Not all noncustodial parents are as horrible as you must think they are.

  4. The old-time presumption of father custody didn’t work, did it? Is the less old-time presumption of mother-custody working? Why would anyone presume that a man could do something better than a woman, or that a woman could do something better than a man? Is presumption the error? If it is, why presume that inequality is better than equality? Isn’t equality better in one residence? Why wouldn’t it be in two residences?It usually works for neighbors.

  5. A single mom says:

    I can certainly appreciate the fathers who ‘want’ to be in their kids lives. Even envy it at times. But there are other sides to this coin. While making “blanket” laws to protect mother’s from the ones who are really trying to shirk their responsibilities to their children, it’s not fair to the one’s who don’t. I am such a mother with an absent father. I have tried to get him involved in our childrens lives, he still has “no time”. He leisurely travels, hangs out with his friends, spends all his money while not paying child support. Sits on 6 million in stocks alone, runs his own company and does quite well for himself. But not for his kids. Mind you, I don’t want everything this man has, just help with the kids. I would forego more child support if he really was involved in the kids lives (probably not wise given his past)….but at the same time, I can perfectly relate to the “wanting to be in kids lives just to lesson child support” then him disappearing.He has already done this. I had sole custody, then he also promised to see them regularly if I gave him shared custody (lessoning his cs) and he hasn’t even so much as made a phone call to check on them in about a year now.(since the court case) He is getting married soon and his fiance has told me she looks forward to being a good influence in the kids lives. I don’t know what to say to her about this man she is marrying who has “more important” things to do than to see or help with his children. I have footed the medical bills, entertainment, school supplies and fees etc. With not a dime from this man at all.
    So, while I know there are ALOT of decent human beings out there who are trying to do the right thing. (please keep up the good work and be strong. I pray good will come to you) There are still plenty who aren’t. Or using the biological factor to their advantage with no regard to the childs well-being. How do we balance this out? Protect the good father’s while trying to keep the children emotionally healthy from the bad ones…..it would be a no win situation if nothing is done. It shouldn’t be so cut and dry….a situation type agreement. Make sense?

  6. S R says:

    In britain fathers are screaming out for this legislation to be put in place.

    To the single mom. There is nothing that presumption can do for you, therefore you get all the time with the kids, you should get all of the financial support, maybe more than you get now. No real father would disagee with that, and those that do and shirk their responsiblity should be brought to book and forced to pay.

    As you say yourself, if he was around you would prefer it for the sake of your kid(s). Well imagine how fathers feel who want to be there but can’t because instead of your enlightened view, the mom excludes the father from the child’s life. Imagine the horror of having your kids removed from your life against your will.

    To the guy that runs this post, it seems you just don’t want a law that might help to keep families warring over children, then maybe not requiring your nice’n easy quicky divorce. After time apart, sharing the children, more couples might reassess their life together and choose to make a go of it rather than divorce, as they haven’t knocked seven bells out of one another fighting over the children in court.

  7. BB says:

    I know this blog is old, but if I’m just now reading it, I think others will be stumbling across it too. My comment is mainly in response to Mr. Barnett’s comment which states that there is no such thing as shared custody in Alabama. This is absolutely not accurate. I have shared custody with my ex-husband of my teenage daughter. The bottom line is not what laws are out there but how sneaky a lawyer and a ex want to be. I was tricked into signing shared custody papers instead of joint custody because my ex and his lawyer knew that this implied that he is sharing not only time but the cost involved in raising our child which could not be further than the truth. He pays zero on school supplies, clothes, spending money, food, in fact ZERO period, and thinks he is so slick. My heart goes out to Mr. Barnett and other fathers and mothers who are screwed by the system. It is when parents care more about getting back at an ex than they care about supporting their children, it is when lawyers care more about making money than helping people come to aggreements that are fair to everyone, that children suffer more than necessary in divorce. I’m working 2 jobs and scraping by to put food on the table and pay utilities while my ex is remarried and has a two income home (he doesn’t mind taking child support from his new wife’s ex…just don’t want to give it to his own daughter). I’ve adopted the philosophy that if he can live with what he’s doing, I can certainly live without his money. When our daughter is grown she’ll look back and know who took care of her and sacrificed so that she would have what she needed. What is he going to say or feel then?

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