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.