Ex Parte Mclendon: ‘Leaving it Alone’ in Regards to Custody

One of the hardest issues facing those going through a divorce is child custody. Custody cases tend to be inherently emotional in nature. It is the duty of the court to determine the custody arrangement that will accurately represent the best interest of the child and promote their welfare. Once this custody arrangement has been made, it is possible to modify the arrangement in an appellate court. However, simply demonstrating that a change in the custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child is not enough, due to the McLendon doctrine. Ex Parte McLendon was a 1984 Alabama Supreme Court case. It addresses the “rule of repose” which basically states that it is not good for a child to have their custody arrangement modified unless there is a really good reason to do so. Frequent changes in custody are not good for a child’s development and have “inherently disruptive effects.”

If you are a divorced parent living in Alabama who is trying to modify your custody arrangement, you will first need to prove three things. First, you will need to prove that there has been a change in circumstances since the last custody judgement. Second, you will need to prove that the change in custody will “materially promote” the best interests of the child. And finally, you will need to prove that the change will result in benefits which “more than offset” the disruptive effects that inherently accompany changes in custody.