Alabama Family Rights Association

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  AFRA Events

Meeting with Members of the Alabama Legislature

An important conference between concerned Pro-Family rights advocates and state legislators took place at the Alabama State House on February 18th, 1999. Due to scheduling conflicts with state budgeting hearings, only four state senators and representatives attended this crucial meeting to hear valid arguments and concerns regarding needed divorce law reform in Alabama. Due to very limited time constraints, only a very limited overview of who AFRA is and what our goals are was presented. The many and various topics to be presented by members of the Alabama Family RightsAssociation (AFRA), the Association of Noncustodial Parents Rights(ANCPR), and Women for Fatherhood, were not allowed to be presented at this particular meeting. This turned out to be more of a "get acquatinted" meeting than a real dialogue. But WE WILL BE BACK!

The main focus of these Pro-Family groups is to encourage bills that preserve family unity after divorce, particularly measures that protect the rightsof children and parents to have significant contact with each other and for parents to share equally in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. Although there is presently an Alabama statute that encourages joint custody after divorce, this state policy is largely ignored by judges who persist in favoring sole custody by mothers, resulting in custody awards to mothers in nine out of ten (90%) cases of contested divorces. Fathers ( and sometimes mothers) are thus exiled from the lives of their children and often driven into bankruptcy. The effects of this gender bias have contributed largely to fatherlessness which is directly associated with high levels of teenage crime, drug abuse, behavioral disorders, school-dropout, lowered school performance, and runaway children. The Pro-Family groups, who believe that "the best parent for children is TWO parents," want the Alabama legislature to revise the present statute into making joint custody rebuttable and presumptive. This means that joint custody would be routinely awarded to all divorced parents,unless it can clearly be proved that either one is unfit. The groups are also advocating bills that would allow children of age 12 or older todesignate the residential parent, a bill that would put the burden of proof onto the custodial parent to show that an out-of-state move with the child away from the noncustodial parent would not harm the child, and a bill that would provide penalties for the false reporting of child abuse. There was also to be some discussion about revising child support guidelines to more truly reflect support expenses and for making child support payments accountable by the custodial parent. Presently, the custodial parent is free to use the child support payments provided by the noncustodial parent without any accountability as to where and how it is spent.The Pro-Family groups indicate that this historic meeting with state legislators is the first time a meeting of this magnitude has been held in the state capitol to discuss the need for change in divorce and custody judicial policies.

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