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Growing up, my brother and I could never figure out why our dad was so obsessed with us putting our shoes away in the closet instead of leaving them by the door.  He also seemed similarly obsessed with us turning off the lights when we left one room and moved to another.

This morning, I picked up my children’s clothes on the floor and put them in the hamper.   I turned off the lights they left on and thought about the Pepco bill I have to pay this month.  I hung up the wet towel one of them left on the carpet.  I washed their cereal dishes and put the cereal box away.  I tripped over their sneakers as I left for work.

Now I finally understand where my father was coming from.

Emily DeVoe at WECT.Com describes the success of a program in New Hanover County, North Carolina, called Partnership for Fatherhood. The program finds that better relationships with children ups child support collections.

“We found out that a lot of fathers weren’t paying their child support–they didn’t have a relationship with their children–and so we said, ‘If they have a relationship with their children, maybe then they will pay their child support because they will have a relationship and be committed to their child,'” Angelina Bernard of the Department of Social Services said.

One of the program’s goals is to build better relationships between fathers and their children.  It also provides employment and educational services to non-custodial parents.  Child support payments have increased by 34 percent since the program started in June of 2013.

A new survey by Netmums.com, that included 1,000 parents and 100 children in the U.K., found the following results about the impact of divorce:

Children

  • 39% hid their feelings from their parents
  • 20% said it was no use talking to their parents who were too wrapped up in themselves
  • 14% said they couldn’t be honest about their feelings with their parents
  • 33% said they were devastated by divorce
  • 13% blamed themselves

Parents

  • 77% said their kids were coping fine
  • 10% said their kids were relieved
  • 5% were aware that kids blamed themselves

The conclusions are that most  parents are not aware of the negative impact divorce has on their children and should take extra care to assure the children it is not their fault.

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.

Guest post by Corina David

Divorce is a traumatic experience, no matter if this happens after 6 or 16 years of marriage. But despite the bitter taste, it might be the only remedy possible to a relation that is anyway doomed to failure.

When children are involved, the situation becomes even more complicated, as many decide to tolerate each other for a few more years until the children are old enough either to understand or leave home and have their own lives. A relationship like this is like a pair of socks that needs constant mending. And the truth is that despite the laudable intention of being economical, you’ll still have to buy a new pair of socks – better quality maybe. This is pretty much the same with a relation – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work; get used to the idea, do something and don’t use the children as an excuse.

Priority or not?

Children shouldn’t be an excuse, indeed, but should be a priority. Growing up in a medium where tension can be felt might harm them more in the long term than if you were to cut the bad from its roots.

There are many family law professionals who can provide special counselling sessions to couples who want to divorce. The golden rule is to never speak badly of your partner in front of your children. After all, he’s their father, or she’s their mother.

While traumatic at first, children will eventually get used to the idea. Also, when there is more than one child involved, they should not be “divided” between the parents, even if one of the children may be the father’s or mother’s favourite.

Should the in-laws receive counselling?

Divorce affects not only the children, but the grandparents as well. Sometimes, special counselling sessions for the grandparents may be a good idea, as they might be inclined to partner with their own grown-up children and see the former husband or wife as the “enemy”.  Obviously, this will affect the little ones. Grandparents need to understand that while their grown-up children may have had problems, that was just between them and should not let this affect their relation. Family law firms offer advice that can be really helpful. There are also special counsellors that do this.

Remember that words have the power to destroy and to connect, therefore words should only be uttered after they have been wisely thought. And no matter how well you might think you handle the situation, there’s always a case, or someone else’s experience, or words of wisdom that can make a huge difference.

So don’t hide in the closet! Seek advice and talk to people. Divorce happens, the same way life happens, the same way marriage happens. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Sometimes celebrities can teach us what not to do.  TMZ reports that an Atlanta family court judge has awarded Tawanna Iverson custody of her five children with NBA basketball star Allen Iverson.

The judge found that Allen “does not know how to manage the children; has little interest in learning to manage the children and has actually, at times, been a hindrance to their spiritual and emotional growth and development.  For example, he has refused to attend to an obvious and serious alcohol problem, which has caused him to do inappropriate things in the presence of the children while impaired.  He has left the children alone without supervision. He has left his young daughters in a hotel room with men who are unknown to the mother.”

The judge gave Allen visitation on the conditions that he:

  • not drink alcohol for 18 months
  • after that, not drink alcohol within 24 hours of visitation
  • engage in mental health therapy
  • attend AA meetings for a year

Guest Post By John Ellsworth, Esq

You can continue to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return if the divorce decree names you as the custodial parent. This is a very important rule for you to memorize.

If the decree is silent on that point, you would still be considered the custodial parent — and thus eligible for the exemption — if your child lived with you for a longer period of time during the year than with your ex. So if the child lives more than half the year with you, and your decree doesn’t mention who gets the exemption, then you get it.

Please keep in mind that it’s possible for the noncustodial parent to claim the exemption if the custodial parent signs a waiver pledging that he or she won’t claim it.

Guest Post by David Williamson, content writer at Coles Solicitors who writes on different law and legal topics. He is expert in writing about personal injury law, family law, divorce law, employment law and many other legal topics.

The effects divorce can have on older children, especially teenagers, can more often than not be more severe than on the very young. These children, when around the ages of 12 to 16, actively understand what is happening. They can often witness their parent’s distress, can see the disruption in the family unit and ultimately respect the process. This can lead to a fear of commitment and hesitancy when it comes to intimacy. This age range is also more likely to engage in sexual activity at an early age and frequent reports of depression are known to be an outcome. The result of this commonly swings two ways: Either the child matures extremely quickly, becoming a career of sorts for the jilted parent (if there is one), gaining an increased appreciation of money and gaining responsibilities ahead of their years. On the other hand, they can often project their parent’s misfortune on their own future and assume that they will achieve the same, unhappy fate.

When a child grows past these years, to around 16 or above, the effects are often minor. Of course, the child feels jilted and abandoned in some cases and confused as to the causal elements. However, they are mature enough to understand the situation and remove their personal feelings from the equation. Any deep or confusing emotional conflicts will ostensibly only last temporarily, and they will often support the family the best they can to ensure an appropriate outcome.

The single biggest factor, applicable to all age groups, is that of the level of aggression a child may witness between their parents. If there are common verbal fights, or even in severe cases physical outbursts, this will have major effects on all children, often causing permanent damage. If fighting is unavoidable then this should be conducted away from the children as, at the very least, the illusion of a ‘normal’ family unit needs to be partially maintained for the child to appreciate and respect normal human relationships.

Understanding these outcomes and ensuring appropriate steps to prevent them will help children adjust to the drastic changes imposed on them by divorce and help prevent any permanent damage.

Guest Post by David Williamson, content writer at Coles Solicitors who writes on different law and legal topics. He is expert in writing about personal injury law, family law, divorce law, employment law and many other legal topics.

The effects of divorce on the very young are still somewhat a mystery. Up until around the ages of 2 or 3, children are not going to remember the separation and show few signs of understanding the process. Therefore, the long term effects are, fundamentally, only conjecture.

Once they begin to age, however, up until around 8 or 9 years old, children will often demonstrate rudimentary and measurable signs of understanding the situation. They often take on board some feelings of responsibility and assume that the reason one of their parents has left falls to them. The consequences of this are a yearning for attention, often combined with a fear that the remaining parent will also ‘abandon’ them. This can result in lowered self-esteem and often cause a problematic sleeping pattern.

Mature children, around the ages of 9 to 12, often shoulder the responsibility of the situation more so than their younger counterparts. A common consequence during these ages is that of an increased imagination. Commonly, the child may imagine their parents are still together and take part in games or act out scenes of denial and a refusal to believe the situation that is unfolding before them; outside of their control. Anger may increase during this age range, whereas younger children may introvert, quietly sob and allow the feeling of abandon to push them into the fringes of their comfort zone, these more mature children will probably become more obvious with their feelings of anger and resentment.