Want to be a great dad? Here are the top ten ways from Len Brass.
Contracts and Father’s Rights
William Marotta of Topeka, Kansas, answered an ad on Craigslist to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple who wanted a child. He signed a contract saying he would have no father’s rights nor parental rights nor responsibilities.
Following the birth, the mother, the child’s mother, Jennifer Schreiner, applied for public assistance. The Kansas Department for Children and Families has paid her about $6,000 in public assistance. That agency filed suit against Marotta to recoup the money saying that he owes back and future child support.
Besides the contract, there is a law in Kansas that exempts sperm donors from child support claims. Judge Mary Mattivi pointed out, however, that the law does not apply unless a licensed physician performs the artificial insemination. There was no licensed physician in this case.
Father’s Rights, Wanted or Not
The judge also said that a private contract cannot override the law and negate his father’s rights and Marotta is therefore the presumptive father of the child. Whether Marotta has to pay child support is yet to be determined. What do you think?
A Story of Balancing Mother’s Rights and Father’s Rights
“My client was shocked to learn that your client has enrolled their 5 year old son in the swim team at the community pool,” the letter from the mother’s divorce lawyer started.
The father’s lawyer scanned it to the father by email. By the next day he had received three drafts of a four page letter from the father explaining all the benefits of swim team. The father wanted the lawyer to send the letter to the mother’s attorney.
“Wait until I speak with her,” the lawyer told the father.
“Why?” asked the father. “I want her to know, for the record, that I’m not the bad guy here. And I didn’t do it just because my new girlfriend is the coach of the swim team.”
“First of all,” replied the father’s lawyer, “she won’t believe you. Second, there is no record. Third, I don’t try my case in letters. And finally, I don’t know why, but my intuition and experience tell me to wait until I speak with opposing counsel.”
Five days later, the mother’s attorney called. The mother was concerned that she had been left out of the decision making process. She wanted to know how many lifeguards were on duty, their ages, and what training they had. These were easy to provide and the problem was solved. The father’s letter was put in the file and never sent.
Guest post by Lauren Williams, staff writer at King Law Offices, Family Law Attorneys in NC & SC.
In Maryland, a child’s entitlement to support does not depend upon parents’ marital status. Every child is entitled to a level of support in proportion to the parents’ economic position regardless of whether the child is born of wedlock or out-of-wedlock or to parents whose marriage ended in divorce. As with children of divorce, children born out-of-wedlock are entitled to fairness and equity in regard to child support.
“Born out-of-wedlock” means born to an unmarried female or born to a married female but begotten during the continuance of the marriage status by one other than her husband.
Under Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 1-206(a) there is a presumption that the child is a legitimate child if the child is born or conceived during a marriage. A child born to parents who are not married is considered to be the child of the mother. Pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 1-208(b), the ‘father and child relationship’ can be established in one of the following four methods: (1) Judicial determination of paternity, (2) Acknowledgment by father in writing that he is the father of the child, (3) Open and notorious recognition by the father that he is the father of the child, or (4) Acknowledgment by father that he is the father of the child after marrying the mother.
The Paternity Statute (Fam. Law §§ 5-1001 through 5-1048) provides a rebuttable presumption that the child is the legitimate child of the man to whom child’s mother was married at the time of conception. Upon request of a party, the court may order the parties (mother, child and the father) to submit to blood or genetic tests to determine the paternity. If the test reveals a statistical probability of the father’s paternity of at least 99.0%, it may be received into evidence and constitutes a rebuttable presumption of the paternity. The court may pass necessary orders declaring the father based on the test. The court may also pass necessary orders for 1, support, 2. Custody of the child, 3. Visitation rights with the child, 4. Giving bond, and 5. Any other matter that is related to the general welfare and best interests of the child.
If the child was conceived during a marriage, mere declaration by father claiming to be the father of a child born out-of-wedlock is not sufficient to overcome the presumption of legitimacy of the child based on the time of conception. In order to overcome the presumption, the father must provide certain proof(s) specified in Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 5-1027(c)(2), (3), and (4).
Maryland follows the income shares model for child support. Under this model, a child is entitled to a standard of living that corresponds to the economic position and lifestyle of the parents.
Father’s Rights Can Get Complicated
Two of my friends called for some advice this week. One is a father who is separated from the mother. They have a little girl. He wants to protect his father’s rights but the situation is complicated.
The mother has remarried and her new husband and my friend are in constant conflict over the child. So far they have had disputes over visitation, clothing, discipline, medical treatment and sports.
As might be suspected, the mother sides with the new husband in these disputes. I have suggested settlement, mediation and a parenting coordinator but the mother has rebuffed all of these suggestions.
My other friend is a stepfather. He married a woman who has a little boy from a previous marriage. The birth father sees the little boy from time to time but he lives far away and my friend really has the day to day parenting role. He and the boy have become quite fond of each other. My friend would adopt the boy if the father would agree. He has all the obligations of fatherhood but none of the rights of a father.
Fathers and Stepfathers Should Cooperate
There are two sides to every issue. It would be great if fathers and stepfathers could work together cooperatively for the benefit of the child. But in many cases, there is too much emotion involved to make that possible.
Father’s Rights Under “Duress”
Danny Carr, Counselor and Attorney at Law, punched the button on his phone this morning to listen to messages left last night on his voice-mail.
“I need to hire you for a custody case. This is Ken Woodard. Call me at 301-555-5555.”
Carr hit redial, and when someone answered, he said, “Mr. Woodard, this is Danny Carr, returning your call.”
“I was forced to give up custody and visitation by my wife’s attorney by duress,” said Woodard.
“Did he hold a gun to your head? “
“No, but he told me I would lose if I didn’t agree.”
“That’s not duress.”
“OK, well then I found out I still have to pay child support.”
“Right. Parents are obligated to support their children.”
“But if I don’t have custody or visitation, haven’t my parental rights been terminated?”
“No. You are still the children’s father.”
“My wife accused me of neglecting and abusing the kids. Can I file a petition to terminate my parental rights on the basis of her saying I’m an unfit parent?”
“No. You can’t file a complaint against yourself to terminate your own parental rights.”
“That doesn’t sound right.”
“I have to go now, Mr. Woodard. Good luck with your case.”
One Mom’s Emotions Almost Canceled Out Father’s Rights
In England, a family judge found that a mother would be unable to cope with the father seeing their two daughters, ages nine and six after she broke down in court and said the thought of it made her feel exhausted. A psychologist supported her view but the court appointed child advocate disagreed. The judge banned the father from having any direct contact with his children, except for cards, letters and gifts once a month.
The father’s lawyers appealed the judge’s decision, saying it had been based on a momentary display of emotion from the mother in the witness box.
Father’s Rights and the Best Interest of the Child
The Court overturned the family judge’s order, acknowledging that it was “a very big ask” for the mother to accept that her children’s best interests lay in having two parents, not just one. “Where, however, it is plainly in the best interests of a child to spend time with the other parent then, tough or not, part of the responsibility of the parent with care must be the duty and responsibility to deliver what the child needs, hard though that may be.”
The court urged all separated parents to see the bigger picture and consider the harm that legal disputes cause children. It said mothers and fathers had a responsibility and a duty to help children maintain contact with the other parent. Mothers rights and fathers rights are equally important.
Do you fight with your spouse in front of your children? I never saw my parents fight. They told me later when I was an adult that they did have fights, but they had agreed never to have them in front of me and my brother.
I know they did this for our own good, but sometimes I think it might have been helpful for me to actually see people arguing and fighting and resolving conflicts as I was growing up. That way it wouldn’t have come as such a shock to me when I encountered it later in the real world.
As it turns out, a 2009 study by University of Notre Dame psychologists, cited in this article, showed that children can actually learn something good from parents fights, as long as the fight is resolved properly. The researchers found that children were stressed if they witnessed part of a fight but never saw or heard about the resolution.
Father’s Rights for a Sleepover?
Dorene and Richard Ward of Georgia were divorced in March of 2007 and Richard was awarded primarily physical custody of the parties’ two children.
In 2008, Dorene filed an action to obtain sole custody of the children. She lost and the court amended her visitation to provide that she “shall not have any overnight male guests while the minor children are present.”
Dorene appealed contending that this provision was overbroad, because on its face it prohibits her from having her father, a brother, a new spouse, or even the children’s father spend the night at her house while the minor children are present.
The appeals court agreed. It said a trial court has discretion to place restrictions on custodial parents’ behavior that will harm their children. While the trial court could limit visitation if it finds that the children would be adversely affected if any boyfriends of Dorene spent the night with her, the restriction against “any overnight male guests” would prohibit Dorene from having visitors with whom she has no romantic relationship and for whom the record does not support a finding of any harmful effect on her children.
Ward v. Ward, No. S11A0437 (Georgia Supreme Court, May 31, 2011)
Father’s Rights Limited Related to Child Support
Fatemeh and Thomas entered into a marital settlement agreement in 2006, which required Thomas to pay $1200 per month in child support for three years and then $750 an month into a college educational account for the children.
Shortly before the three years was up, Fatemeh filed a petition to modify child support claiming the provision converting the $1200 monthly child support payment to a $750 payment into a college educational account was void as against public policy.
The court said the provision would have violated public policy if it relieved Thomas entirely or permanently from his duty to support his minor child. A parent may not waive or otherwise contract away their child’s right to support. But that does not prevent parents from making contracts or agreements concerning their child’s support so long as the best interests of the children are served. Since the payment was directed into an account for the benefit of the child, there was no public policy violation in the provision of the settlement agreement requiring the child support payment of $750 to be deposited into a college educational account.
Laussermair v. Laussermair, No. 4D09-4823, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D448
(Florida District Court of Appeal, Fourth District, March 2, 2011)