Representative Phillip Pettus (R-Killen) has introduced the Children’s Equal Access Act (HB 431) in the Alabama Legislature to clarify Alabama law creating a fair, uniform starting point for all children in Divorce/Separation cases that focus on children first.
The Children’s Equal Access Act (HB 431), is bipartisan, pro-family legislation consisting of 35 co-sponsors that keeps with the House Republican 2018 agenda “Flag, FAMILY, Country” and the Democrats’ “Clean, COMPETENT, and Competitive Alabama” agenda for 2018. It takes the “guess work” from the courts’ decision-making process and gives them definitive guidelines.
Existing Alabama law is ambiguous in spots and it creates an unfair and unpredictable process for parents. For example, Alabama law states that separated or divorced parents should have frequent and continuing contact with their children, but “frequent and continuing contact” is not defined. As a result, some children’s contact with their parents is predicated more on which judge hears a case rather than the actual circumstances of the dispute.
The results of the 2015 and 2016 surveys administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) indicate that a biased and unbalanced practice still exists throughout the State of Alabama, even though, 40 studies show and 112 experts agree that “…shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages.”
The Children’s Equal Access Act creates uniform guidelines for these cases and there should be a rebuttable presumption that both parents are fit to make parenting decisions and have maximum parenting time with their children. In some cases, it gives the Court discretion to deviate from the presumption and requires the Court to indicate why maximum time with both parents is not in the best interest of the child.
One key element is that it will require a parenting plan be submitted in all cases – not just those requesting joint custody and authority for the Court to establish one when the parties are unable to agree.
Most importantly, it aims to maximize a child’s time with both fit parents during divorce or separation, which gives the child’s extended family the opportunity to have a relationship with the child, provided that parents are responsible adults.
The Children’s Equal Access Act incorporates research-based recommendations from the Alabama Law Institute’s Family Law Standing Committee, two judges’ surveys conducted by the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC), constituents’ testimonies, and research-based conclusions from 40 studies and the consensus of over 100 social scientists regarding child custody.
Contact: Debbie Zeiger, State VP
Phone: (205) 626-9458
Fact Sheet Here.