Pelham man fights for equal parent rights

When Kenneth Paschal of Pelham got a divorce, he didn’t know just how much his life would change. Mostly, he wasn’t prepared for how his relationship with his 5-year-old daughter would now be controlled by the court, he said.

“I’ve been in and out of the court every three months just to have lunch with my daughter,” Paschal said. “When I was married, eating lunch wasn’t a problem. Then I got divorced and I didn’t have that right. I had to go back and ask the judge’s permission just to eat lunch with my daughter.”

Now Paschal is using his own experience to start a movement in Shelby County to promote equal parent rights after divorce.

Last month Paschal started a Birmingham chapter of the Alabama Family Rights Association. The chapter meets the third Thursday of every month to discuss issues facing non-custodial parents and address those issues with city and judicial leaders, Paschal said.

“When I went through the divorce court, I was not aware of this epidemic going on,” Paschal said. “I started praying about it and the Lord put on my heart, ‘Praying is good, but what are you going to do about it?’”

Since the chapter’s creation, Paschal said he has been on the phone every night with parents going through similar situations.

“I’m not an attorney, I’m not a lawyer, I’m just encouraging them with my experience,” Paschal said.

Paschal said the most common problem he sees is a non-custodial parent wanting to be active and involved in their child’s life, but is only allowed visitation 80 days a year.

“Alabama law promotes shared custody,” Paschal said. “But older judges and attorneys, they don’t go by this. It starts with 80 days, then you’ve got to go back to court and spend more money to get 81 days, maybe 82 days. Let’s get equal parent rights from the start.”

Paschal believes the work of the Alabama Family Rights Association will be in the best interest of the child by strengthening families, neighborhoods and communities, he said. Right now his main goal is to educate the public.

“I don’t want to attack judges and attorneys, but I do want to put the facts out there,” he said.

The next meeting of the ALFRA Birmingham chapter will be held Sept. 16 at the Hoover Public Library.

Paschal encourages anyone going through a divorce or who would like more information to attend.

“There are times when I wanted to quit,” he said. “I’m $40,000 in debt just from attorney fees. The court system almost forces you to quit. I want to tell other fathers, ‘Don’t give up. Come to a meeting and we’ll talk about it.’”