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Alabama Family Rights Association

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Input given to:

Advisory Committee on Access and Visitation
Alabama Administrative Office of Courts
300 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36104-3741
by Frank Hicks,
President, Alabama Father’s Rights Association

October 22, 1998

Input for The Alabama Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Access and Visitation
 

We the members of the Alabama Fathers Rights Association (AFRA)
believe our children really do need two parents, even after divorce,
and that no parent should be reduced to being just a checkbook.
Unfortunately, our current system of dissolving marriages does exactly
that all too often in custody disputes.  Mothers are awarded custody
over 90% of the time in those divorces where custody is disputed.
There are many changes to be made to reduce divorce, and ameliorate
it’s negative impact on the family:

Alabama needs more judges who understand the need for both parents and
their children to have a personal as well as a financial relationship
after divorce.  One of the major causes of "deadbeat dads" is
alienation of fathers from their children after divorce, and the
social costs of fatherlessness are very high.

Divorced fathers should have the same parental rights as married and
divorced mothers and married fathers. We believe in equal protection
under the law, as guaranteed under our Constitution.

Alabama needs a family court system which places an emphasis on family
reconciliation where possible, and where attorneys and judges are
specially trained to deal with the issues family break-up.

A pre-divorce class in every county addressing all the major issues of
joint parenting after divorce and the problems that can arise (Madison
County currently has such a program in place) should be in place.

A post-divorce parenting plan for every divorcing couple, addressing
all major issues of joint parenting should be a prerequisite for
granting any divorce, regardless of custody arrangements.

IN ALL DIVORCE CASES, a default divorce judgment of JOINT PHYSICAL
CUSTODY, should be in effect, unless either parent can be PROVEN unfit
in a court of law.  In addition, there should be sure and severe
penalties for making false, unproven allegations of spousal or child
abuse.

Both parents should be able to fully participate in all major events
in the child's life, including religious and social activities, per an
agreed-to parenting plan.

Equal access to grandchildren for both sets of grandparents should be
guaranteed by law.

IN THOSE CASES WHERE JOINT CUSTODY IS NOT AWARDED BY THE COURT:

Child support must be a fair and reasonable amount, based on objective
cost of living data, and not solely based on a percentage of gross or
theoretical income  This cost of living data must take into account
the cost for each parent of maintaining a home for the children, as
this is not now the case.  Further,  how much time the child or
children spend with the non-custodial parent should be accounted for,
as well as  the tax consequences of the child support arrangements.

A Children's Support Fund into which all child support payments and
from which all disbursements for the support of the children are made
should be established to ensure the money is spent on support for the
child. Full accountability to each parent of all child support funds will
then be feasible.

Alabama and DHR specifically should emphasize legal efforts for
enforcement of child visitation as they now do for child support.

Alabama and DHR should expend the same legal efforts for enforcement
of child support when the recipient is a father, as they do when the
recipient is a mother.

Denial of physical custody to any parent on welfare when the other
parent is able to support the children.

Documented and proven denial of visitation (more than twice) by either
parent, should be grounds for change of custody.

One action that would greatly help many non-custodial parents would be
a standard clause in divorces that would prevent a custodial parent
from moving more than 100 miles away  without justifying to the court
of jurisdiction why it would be in the best interests of the children
to do so.  The burden of proof should be on the custodial parent who
is removing the children from the physical vicinity of the other
parent.

We believe it is time for Alabama to step forward and realize that it
takes TWO parents to raise a child, even after divorce.   If we can be
of any further assistance, please let us know.


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