The McLendon Standard
The McLendon standard is a "rule of repose," meant to minimize disruptive changes of custody because this Court presumes that stability is inherently more beneficial to a child than disruption. Ex parte McLendon, 455 So.2d at 865.
The McLendon standard is well-settled. A parent seeking a change in custody must establish that the change would materially promote the interests and welfare of the child and that the benefits of the change in custody would more than offset the inherently disruptive effect caused by uprooting the child. Ex parte S.T.S., 806 So.2d 336, 342 (Ala. 2001).
In Ex Parte McLendon, 455 So. 2d 863 (Ala. 1984), the Alabama Court held that the proper standard to be applied in child custody cases wherein a custodial parent had either voluntarily forfeited custody or lost custody due to a prior judicial decree was whether the proposed change in custody materially promoted the child's best interests.
The supreme court in Ex parte McLendon said that a parent who has lost custody of his child by agreement or court order will not be permitted to reclaim custody of the child unless he can show that the change of custody will materially promote the child's best interests and welfare. Moreover, he must show that the positive good caused by the change in custody will more than offset the disruptive effect of uprooting the child. McLendon.
The Court explained that:
"A natural parent has a prima facie right to the custody of his or her child. However, this presumption does not apply after a voluntary forfeiture of custody."
The McLendon court also recognized that a parent's prima facie right to custody does not apply if the parent's unfitness is reflected in a "decree removing custody from the natural parent and awarding it to a nonparent."
Thus, if the natural parent has abandoned his child, or custody has been awarded to a nonparent, the question of what custodial arrangement thereafter will be in the child's "best interest" is examined without a presumption in favor of the parent.
The McLendon standard is designed to minimize disruptive changes of custody because this Court presumes that stability is inherently more beneficial to a child than disruption. Ex parte Cleghorn, 993 So.2d 462 at 468 (Ala. 2008).
"The McLendon standard is not unconstitutional, and the McLendon standard has not been superseded by statute." Gallant v. Gallant, 184 So.3d 387, 405 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014).