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AL Custody Bill Springboard for Discussion; GA Law Contrasts

An Alabama Senate committee has just approved a material change in family law in that state that could potentially have far-reaching effects in the area of fathers' rights and the parental time-sharing arrangements of divorced parents concerning their children.

The overhaul is somewhat controversial, and not yet law. Committee passage moves the bill to the Senate for further debate, which will undoubtedly be passionate and clamorous.

The development serves as a useful platform to discuss fundamental notions toward child custody and to contrast what is going on in Alabama with Georgia law governing child custody matters.

The Alabama bill provides that children of a divorced couple would split time equally between parents, unless one of the parents is found to be unfit. This standard would replace the longstanding "best interests of the child" analysis.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Paul Bussman, says that custody arrangements under current law are often unfair to one of the parents. He says that, provided both parents are fit, then both are needed equally in a child's life.

Critics of the bill deride that view, with one of them calling the legislation "a one size fits all approach" that can easily undermine what is best for a child in a particular instance.

In Georgia, child custody and visitation matters have always been viewed in terms of the "best interest" standard. This makes it critically important in many custody contests that a parent be presented to the court as effectively as possible, with evidence and arguments cogently and persuasively delivered by an experienced divorce attorney.

The Alabama development is interesting, and we will keep readers informed as to how it plays out. Looking forward, though, Georgia law and custom seem firmly entrenched in favor of adjudging custody and visitation matters based on what is in the best interests of the children involved.

Related Resource: Birmingham News, "Alabama Senate panel OKs overhaul of custody laws to require parents equally share children" April 13, 2011

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