DISCLAIMER: We do not feel that we will take either side. Each case is evaluated on a case by case basis. We have simply seen that there are good fathers being disadvantaged due to the mere fact that they are the father and not the mother. This post is not intended to offend anyone in particular, but merely to give light to a way to fix a long standing issue.
Couple 1: Princess and Michael met in a bar one night. He had a hard day at work, and she was everything just right for that night. He was a little intoxicated. They ended up going home together where they inevitably made a baby. They continue to text each other from time to time. For months neither of them knows that Princess is pregnant. She continues to go out drinking, and takes different guys home. She works at a local strip club, and when times are tight, she sometimes gives the customers a little extra sum’n sum’n to get a bigger tip. They go on a few dates, but Princess has a different type of life than Michael who works an office job each and every day until 5. She has the baby, and has a new guy at this time, so she doesn’t tell Michael. When he eventually finds out via Instagram a year or so later (#wheresmychildsupport #wheresmaurywhenyouneedhim #19years19yearsandonthe19thbirthdayfoundoutitwasnthis) he immediately files for custody. He goes to court, and sits next to the other unwed couples awaiting to find out if this is his child. Turns out that Kleverleigh Un-Xpected does in fact belong to him. He, the working father, with no previous drug issues and nothing on his record, gets supervised visitation until the child is 3.
Couple 2: Claire and Robbie are childhood sweethearts. They get married in a small town on the outskirts of hunting territory and nowheresville. BAM, they’ve got six kids. She stays home, and he works to provide for the family. He’s always been involved with the kids. He comes home each night to take each of them to their various hobbies whether it be ninja ballet or laser tag football training camp. He bathes them, puts them to bed, and reads them their favorite stories. He goes to every single recital or game. Eventually the long hours to help feed all the little mouths begins to take a toll on the marriage. They decide to get a divorce. Robbie goes into the courtroom and realizes quickly that he’s getting supervised visits with two of his kids until they’re three and the rest? He gets them for every other weekend.
Couple 3: Claire and Robbie are childhood sweethearts. Instead of staying in that small town, they decide to move to a bigger city in the biggest county in the state. Again, Robbie’s always been involved with the kids. (Same facts as #2). They decide to get a divorce. Robbie gets joint custody.
Couple 4: Claire and Robbie are childhood sweethearts. He beats her/He does a lot of drugs/He partakes in child torture. He loses custody and gets supervised visitation. He blames the system and her for losing custody and having supervised visitation. He doesn’t understand why she won’t modify the agreement to give him more time with his kid. (This is the exception, and these are the ones that waste the mother’s money with modifications because they’ve gone to one or two counseling sessions or AA meetings and expect to get unsupervised visits with their children).
Obviously looking at the above situations, one could see why lawyers everywhere have to say to you that it depends on the judge, on the court, or on the situation for whether or not you will get custody. Your lawyer may be the type who doesn’t care to learn what each judge thinks regarding visitation and just encourages the ancient schedule to push settlement along, as well as your case. Sometimes you’re just on an assembly line with little thought being given to your case. The problem that we keep seeing at our firm is that there are good and loving fathers with no history of drug or alcohol abuse, nor any child abuse issues, who come into our office after they’ve signed an agreement that “grants” them the ancient step schedule where it gives the father a certain amount of time with the child depending on the child’s age such as (and they aren’t this “simple”):
ages 1-3: supervised visits for a few hours
Ages 3-5: one night every other weekend
Ages 5+: every other weekend
Here’s the short of it:
- A marriage makes a huge difference when it comes to custody, even in the best of counties. The difference between married parents and unmarried parents can make or break a custody case for the father of the child. It can put you into a different courthouse with a whole different set of rules. These rules normally point to the step visitation schedules mentioned above. If you are married, then you definitely need to know your rights before you sign them away. Further, you need to find out how your Judge feels about Fathers. If you are unmarried, please look to #4 then continue reading and read #4 again.
- Are these step visitation schedules based on age compliant with Alabama law?We would argue no. These types of visitation schedules that automatically increase without requiring proof of a material change in circumstances have been deemed to be improper in divorce cases where the parties agree to a modification based only on time without any material change in circumstances to justify the modification. These step visitation schedules, just like the cases allowing for a modification after a mere passage of time, have the same issue in that there would be no reason other than the child’s inevitable aging that would indicate that a change in visitation is justified. In Long v. Long, where unsupervised visitation was automatically changed to supervised visitation, the Court stated that the “evidence did not support modification of child custody after six months from supervised visitation to unsupervised visitation, as trial court did not impose any conditions or obligations on noncustodial parent to fulfill during six months, there was no evidence to indicate that there would be any change of circumstances or conditions to warrant modification after six months, and there was no basis to determine future events.” Long v. Long, 781 So. 2d 225 (Ala. Civ. App. 2000). So, does this mean that these step schedules have made it so that fathers have supervised visitation forever? Well, that just seems like a disaster, but maybe… In that case, are these schedules justified in making all visitation with the father supervised… FOREVER? Well, that seems like poppycock. It has been stated that restrictions such as this are deemed okay “only when necessary to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the child. A juvenile court exceeds its discretion, however, when it imposes an overbroad restriction on visitation that does more than is necessary to protect the child and thereby unduly infringes on the parent-child relationship.” Pratt v. Pratt, 56 So.3d 638, 641 (Ala.Civ.App.2010). B.O. v. Jefferson County Dept. of Human Resources, 70 So. 3d 1286, 1291 (Ala. Civ. App. 2011). So tell me why these fathers have to have supervised visitation with the children if their only discretion is that they are not the mother?!
- Are men less capable of taking care of their children? Yes, SOME men are. Just as some women are less capable of taking care of their children as well. There are tons of cases such as Couple # 4 in which the father OR THE MOTHER go to yet another rehab program/counseling session/child abuse program and they think they’re suddenly parent of the year. However, looking at just a man versus a woman with no other facts doesn’t really seem like a good way to determine custody. Isn’t deciding something based on genitalia and/or gender called something— wait, what is that word? Oh, yeah: sexual discrimination. Isn’t there also something in the Constitution of the United States that deals with this type of law making? Pretty sure there’s that whole Equal Protection Clause thing…
- Should men just take the abuse and settle out of court because they won’t change the law anyways? No! It’s time to take a stand. Fight for your children. Find a lawyer who knows the courts and the judges in your county. Pay attention when you’re on the assembly line of cases. Don’t just be a case in a line of cases that the lawyer is going to throw some settlement talk at you and make you settle so they get paid and they can move on to the next case. Also, don’t take her word for it. Unless she is your lawyer and is not your baby momma, then you should not believe what she has to say. Wouldn’t you tell her what you think would make her give up the fight and give you want you want? You wouldn’t? Well, that’s nice of you… but custody battles aren’t nice.