This is a post-divorce modification case from Marshall County, Alabama. Visitation cases are always hard on all members of the family and generally turn on the facts of the situation. Visitation cases with minor children involve weighing the facts and the law is a difficult balance and courts have hard decisions to make.
The parties were originally divorced in 2011. The mother was given sole physical and legal custody of the two children. The father had supervised visitation with the children pursuant to the mother’s input. When the parties reached a divorce agreement, the father had pled guilty to statutory rape of a minor of a youth group where he served on the church staff.
The father filed a petition of modification related to visitation because the mother was not allowing the father to visit with his minor children. During the course of the case, a psychiatrist, who had treated the father, presented testimony that the father was a not a danger to his minor children. The Dr. further testified that father did not have any mental illness. As another opinion, a counselor testified that the father poised no threat to his own children.
The mother, in her case to the court, provided testimony from a non-medical doctor. The testimony and evidence indicated that the father was given a computer test related to images of minors. The expert testified that the father had sexual fantasies of young girls between the ages of 14-17 years of age. At the conclusion of the case, the court, a judge, determined that the father should have unsupervised visitation with his children.
The mother appealed the trail court’s ruling in this case. The appellate court relied on the law written by the Alabama Legislature. The written policy of the State of Alabama is for children to have frequent contact with parents who show an ability to act in the best interests of the children. Ala. Code 1975, § 30-3-150.
The court held, “Although not directly applicable to modification judgments, that statute is consistent with the common-law principle that a noncustodial parent should generally be afforded ‘reasonable rights of visitation’ with his or her children.”
The father testified the mother had cut off all of his contact with the children for several months. Evidence was presented that the father posed no risk to the children. These factors, taken together, establish a material change in circumstances. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.
I believe the trial court reached a conclusion based on the testimony of the experts and the parties in this case. The court enforces the law and the Alabama legislature makes the law. In Alabama and most states, the courts favor parents being involved with children and having frequent visitation with the minor children. The family unit is best served when both parents are actively involved with the minor children.
If you are divorced and not receiving visitation with your minor children, please contact my office to discuss your case. In some instances child visitation cases can be worked out with little court intervention. The most important issue is to seek help with a family lawyer. Contact Joseph A. Ingram to discuss your case.