Sunday, December 8, 2013

Devine v. Devine

Devine v. Devine case brief summary
398 So. 2D 686 (1981)

Petitioner father sought review of the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals (Alabama), which affirmed the trial court's application of the tender years presumption in awarding custody of the parties' children to respondent mother.

The father sought certiorari to review the decision awarding child custody to the mother. The father argued that the trial court's application of the "tender years presumption" was unconstitutional.

  • The court reversed, remanded, and found that the presumption required the custody of young children to be awarded to the mother when the parties were equally fit parents and thus imposed an evidentiary burden on the father to prove the positive unfitness of the mother. 
  • The court ruled that any statutory scheme that imposed obligations on husbands, but not on wives, established a classification based upon sex that was subject to scrutiny under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the same was also true for a legal presumption that imposed evidentiary burdens on fathers, but not on mothers. 
  • The court found that the state's substantial interest in overseeing the care and custody of infants was served by the "best interests of the child" rule, and that the tender years presumption impeded full application of that rule. 
  • In remanding, the court directed a consideration of the individual facts relative to both parents to truly derive the children's best interests.
The court reversed and remanded the lower court's affirmance of the trial court's application of the tender years presumption in awarding custody of children to their mother.

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