A Recent Alabama Child Custody Modification Appeal Emphasizes The Importance of Parental Nurturing of Independence
In the recent child custody modification appeal of Jones v. McCoy, ___So.3d___, 2013 WL 4873471 Sept. 13, 2013, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals placed great emphasis on the custodial parents work in preparing a child for adulthood. In this case, the child’s mother had primary physical custody. Mother and child lived in Alabama. The child’s father lived in Florida. The father filed seeking a change in custody, and the trial court granted his request. In the resulting child custody modification appeal, the evidence cited by the court which supported a change in custody included testimony from the 15-year-old child that while he lived with the mother he was not allowed to leave the driveway of the mother’s home or socialize with other children in his neighborhood. additionally, the child testified that his mother required him to ride in the back seat of the car, would refuse to drop the child off at the movie theater to see movies with friends, that the child had never had friends sleep overnight at the mother’s house and that he had never spent the night away from home at a friend’s house. The mother also refused to allow the child to pursue his interest in playing football.
The father, on the other hand, had arranged for the child to play football at a local school during summer vacation spent with the father. The father also arrange for the child to have a cell phone and to have friends over to socialize. The court noted that the father had fostered 15-year-old child’s independence and was actively seeking to make the child’s self-reliant. Conversely, the child’s mother had unreasonably restricted the child to such a degree that it negatively impacted the welfare of a child.
The decision in this child custody modification appeal is interesting in that one of the major factors revolved around the age of the child in the age appropriate behaviors that one would normally attribute to a 15-year-old. A reading of the case seems to indicate that either parent was financially able to take care of the child. The father was a retired Army general and the mother was a stay-at-home wife married to a physician. What appeared to make the difference was the father’s efforts to socialize the child and to nurture the child’s independence with an eye toward the child becoming a self-reliant adult.
William K. “Chip” Bradford is a 20 year Alabama appellate attorney who handles civil and criminal appeals throughout Alabama in both State and Federal Courts of Appeal. He is a member of Bradford Ladner, LLP, a Birmingham, Alabama based litigation oriented law firm. Bradford can be contacted by phone or e-mail.
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