Greetings from Thomas Ferreira, your child custody, family, divorce and support mediator and lawyer serving California cities of Carlsbad, San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside, San Diego and surrounding areas.
With marriage becoming less popular among men and women of parenting age, the question of parenting children after the breakup has become a popular subject of litigation. The difficulty arises because when the parties are married, you need a divorce decree or judgment of legal separation to end the relationship. But when mom and dad live together one of them can just leave, sometimes with the children.
There’s solid research behind the idea that children need both parents to lead happy, healthy childhoods. And all other things being equal, children do better with separated parents in a healthy, cooperative co-parenting arrangement than they do with parents that engage in high conflict or domestic violence (see Dr. Joan Kelly’s Top Ten Ways to Protect Your Kids from the Fallout of a High Conflict Breakup).
Don’t jump to the conclusion that I am a father’s rights guy just because this article mentions fathers. It’s just that Mothers usually wind up providing the primary home for the children because they give birth and often provide primary care during the first months of life. Fathers tend to leave the home with the children in it, and this dynamic tends to separate dad from his parental role (but not from his financial obligations!).
My message to moms here is that it is vital to your son or daughter that you support dad’s parent-child relationship even if you’ve decided dad is a total jerk. If you didn’t think so, you’d probably still be with him. But in court, an important factor in ensuring your custody of the children will be whether you allow and support “frequent and continuing contact” between the children and their dad.
My advice to dads is to be proactive in seeking paternity orders from the court after the breakup. Again, your relationship has little in the way of legal status compared to a marriage. And, if the mother is able to establish residency of the children in a different state from California, you could even find yourself litigating your custody case in the courts of that state.
So, I believe it’s important to get the legal status of your relationship to mom reduced to court orders. This includes a parenting plan (the time that the children live with each parent) and child support. Here’s what I recommend:
- If you signed a voluntary declaration of paternity (usually signed at the hospital where the child was born), get a certified copy from the State of California. A voluntary declaration of paternity has the same affect as a judgment of paternity in securing your parental rights initially. To get permanent security, though, you’ll need a judgment of paternity from the court.
- If you’re sure the relationship is over, don’t delay in filing a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (more commonly known as a “Paternity Action”). For help on Paternity and child custody, please feel free to contact my office.
- I also recommend that you not delay in scheduling mediation of your child custody and financial relationship. Private mediation can get you through the process without setting foot in court, and you will have professionals guide you through the entire process.
- If mom is withholding the children or being stingy about agreeing to parenting time, you can file a Request for Order.
At the Law Offices of Thomas D. Ferreira, I am here to help you with these issues. Whether you are mom or dad, you are important, and we can give you the help you need to prepare papers, appear at hearings, write motions or handle your entire case. If you need more information, please take advantage of our free half-hour consultation.
I remain …
Very truly yours,
Disclaimer: Thomas D. Ferreira is an attorney licensed only in the State of California. The information set forth in this blog or on our websites are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor are they intended as legal advice on your specific matter. This information is not intended to apply to cases or jurisdictions outside the State of California, and those viewing this information outside of California, or having business before jurisdictions outside of California, should consult a local professional or lawyer. The information in this blog is not a substitute for the advice of competent counsel, and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the results of your legal matter