Bill would bring major changes to child custody law

A bill currently pending in the Alabama Legislature would significantly change the way family court judges determine child custody issues. Many Alabama judges who responded to a recent survey indicated that equal custody is not commonly ordered. Senate Bill 186, introduced by Senator Larry Stutts of Tuscumbia, seeks to change this byencouraging equal physical custody in more cases.

Currently, Alabama law does not require equal physical custody in cases where joint custody is ordered. Senator Stutts’ bill would create a rebuttable presumption that each parent is equally capable of spending time with the child and making important decisions about the child’s upbringing.The bill would also establish uniform guidelines to be applied by the courts in custody cases.

The bill would also require parents in all cases to submit a parenting plan to the court. Current law only requires submission of a parenting plan when both parents request joint custody. Under the bill, the court would decide on a parenting plan if the parties were unable to agree.

A parenting plan is intended to address major issues related to custody and visitation in a specific case. Plans typically cover where the child will live; how much time the child will spend with each parent; where the child will spend vacations, holidays and birthdays; andvisitation schedules. A typical parenting plan will also address who will make major decisions about the child’s education and upbringing,and how disputes will be resolved.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 15, with one proposed amendment.If the bill passes the full legislature and is signed into law by the governor, it could be a significant step forward for fathers’ rights in Alabama.

Source:, “Bill that could change custody laws heads to committee floor,” Emily Fredrick, March 13, 2017