Senator Stutts Introduces Legislation to Create a Uniform Starting Point for All Child Custody Cases

By Larry Stutts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Senator Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) has introduced the Children’s Equal Access Act in the Alabama Legislature to clarify child custody law and create a fair, uniform starting point for all child custody cases.

Existing Alabama child custody law is ambiguous at points and that ambiguity creates an unfair and unpredictable process for parents. For example, Alabama’s law states that separated or divorced parents should have frequent and continuing contact with their children, but “frequent and continuing contact” is not defined. As a result, child custody determinations are predicated more on which judge hears a case rather than the actual circumstances of the dispute.

“We need uniform guidelines for child custody cases and there should be a presumption that both parents are fit to make parenting decisions and have equal time with the child, unless evidence can be presented that a parent is unfit to be involved in the child’s life,” Stutts said.

Stutts’ proposal would clarify that joint custody includes equal physical time with the child and would create a rebuttable presumption that both parents are fit to make parenting decisions regarding their child.

“Parental equality should be the starting point for every child custody case,” Stutts remarked. “Ultimately, it’s about the child having a right to equal time with both his or her mother, father, and extended family, provided that both parents are responsible adults.”

The Children’s Equal Access Act incorporates research-based recommendations from the Alabama Law Institute’s Family Law Standing Committee, two judges’ surveys conducted by the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC), constituents’ testimonies, and research-based conclusions from 40 studies and the consensus of over 100 social scientists regarding child custody.

Dr. Larry Stutts represents Senate District 6, comprised of all or parts of Marion, Lawrence, Lauderdale, Colbert, and Franklin counties, in the Alabama State Senate. He and his wife, Jackie, make their home in Tuscumbia.