November 19, 2010

Parenting Plan

Posted in Custody, Divorce, Parentage tagged , , at 1:40 pm by demetriagraves

If you have children and your relationship is breaking down working out what will happen with your children is one of the most important issues to resolve – this is commonly known as a parenting plan. Any cases involving children, whether it’s a divorce or separation between spouses or custody cases between unmarried couples, always involve certain issues. These issues can be resolved by an agreement or by trial, but they must be addressed one way or the other.

Here’s a list of issues that must be addressed to form the basis of a parenting plan:

  • Which house is identified as “home base” for the children?
  • When will the children be with each parent during the school year?
  • When will the children be with each parent during holiday breaks?
  • How will the summer break period be handled?
  • What arrangements will be made for exchanging the children at the beginning of each parent’s time?
  • Who will decide which extracurricular activities the children will participate in? How will these activities be paid for? What happens if an activity falls during the other parent’s time?
  • How will the children’s religious upbringing be handled?
  • Who will make decisions for the medical and mental health needs of the children? How will these needs be paid for?
  • Who will have the right to represent the children in legal action and make other legal decisions for the children?
  • How will the children’s access to the internet be handled?
  • Who will carry the children on health insurance? Who will pay for the coverage? How will the uninsured medical expenses be handled?
  • Who will make decisions regarding the children’s education? How will private schooling be handled? What happens if the children need additional educational assistance such as tutoring? How will those expenses be handled?
  • What plans are being made for the children’s future college education?
  • Will the children talk on the telephone to the parent not in possession of them?
  • Will the children be allowed to travel outside the country with each parent? How will the passports be handled?

Unless the courts have ordered something different, both parents have the right to:

  • Receive information concerning the health, education and welfare of the kids;
  • Talk with the other parent before making a decision concerning the health, education and welfare of the kids;
  • Access their children’s medical, dental, psychological and educational records;
  • Consult with the kids’ doctors;
  • Consult with the school concerning the kids’ welfare and educational status;
  • Attend school activities;
  • Be listed as an emergency contact on the kids’ records;
  • Consent to medical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the kids;
  • Be offered the chance to take care of the kids during the other parent’s time if the other parent has something that keeps them from the kids.

Here’s some other tips that I’ve found to be important as a family law attorney who works with parents who are splitting up and I recommend that you should keep in mind:

  • Alcohol consumption – limit the amount of alcohol you consume during your time with your kids, especially if alcohol has been a problem before. Never drive with your children if you’ve been drinking.
  • New romantic partners – take care to introduce your new boyfriend or girlfriend to your kids slowly, so they don’t feel as though their other parent is being replaced.
  • Travel – when planning trips for business or pleasure, with or without your kids, keep your kids’ schedules and your parenting plan in mind.

December 9, 2009

What You Should Know About Voluntary Declaration of Paternity

Posted in Child Support, Custody, Parentage, Paternity tagged , , , at 11:32 pm by demetriagraves

Recently I wrote about how DNA testing may affect the traditional concepts of Fatherhood. What about establishing Parentage (Paternity)? Establishing Parentage means that you are declaring who the legal parents of a child are if the parents were not married when the child was born.

If the parents were married when the child was born, the law usually presumes the husband to be the father.

After January 1, 2005, if parents are registered domestic partners when a child is born, the law assumes that the domestic partners are parents. However, since this law is new and unsettled, same sex parents should get legal advice to make sure that the parentage is clear.

Parents who are not married when a child is born can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity before they leave the hospital, or after, which automatically declares Dad as the father, which means the court automatically can make orders for custody and visitation if the Declaration of Paternity is signed.

The legislature (7570) declares the following:

“(a) There is a compelling state interest in establishing paternity for all children. Establishing paternity is the first step toward a child support award, which, in turn, provides children with equal rights and access to benefits, including, but not limited to, social security, health insurance, survivors’ benefits, military benefits, and inheritance rights. Knowledge of family medical history is often necessary for correct medical diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, knowing one’s father is important to a child’s development.”

When both unmarried parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, it means they are the legal parents of the child. You have the choice of whether or not to sign the Declaration of Paternity, but once you do, you are recognized as the legal parent.  As stated above, if parents are unmarried, paternity establishment is not automatic and the process should be started by both parents as soon as possible for the benefit of the child.

If you sign the declaration at the hospital, your name will go on the child’s birth certificate, and the mother does not need to go to court to prove that you are the father of the child.  If the declaration is signed after the child’s birth certificate has been issued, a new birth certificate can be issued with the father’s name.

If you are considering signing a voluntary declaration of parentage it’s important to know that once paternity or parentage has been established, it can be difficult or impossible to undo – even if DNA testing later shows that the father is not the biological father of the child.

After parentage is established, each parent has:

  • An equal responsibility to support the child, and
  • An equal right to custody of the child.

The signing of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity can have long term implications in your life.  Before you sign one, consult with a lawyer to protect your rights.