After going through the ups and downs of a child custody or divorce case, the last thing you want to have to deal with are final orders that either do not accurately reflect what was agreed upon in mediation or are wholly incorrect. The purpose of yesterday and today's blog posts from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, is to point out the sometimes overlooked areas of a final order that can significantly impact your case in the long term. The devil is in the details, and if you are not focused on them, you will have worked hard to complete your case with little to show for your efforts.
Stepfamilies and their effect on your final orders
Blended families are prevalent in our country today. This should come as no surprise, seeing how such a relatively high percentage of marriages end in divorce. As such, if you are bringing your child into a blended household, there will need to be methods that your family uses to blend the people in your family and blend your habits and rules of living under one roof. What works for one family may not work for another.
If you have remarried after divorce, it is up to you and your spouse to work on skills that can help teach your children to work together and respect one another. If you all are not "talkers," I would recommend that this be a skill that you work on tirelessly. Open communication is essential to making a blended family a cohesive unit, not just a bunch of individuals who call themselves a family.
For your family, you need to pay close attention to how your child is reacting to life after your family law case has been completed. They may be reaching out to you for someone at one time, but you may be too busy or concerned with other aspects of your family to see this.
Take time to talk to your children about the new living situation and listen to what they have to say. It is a powerless feeling for a child to be thrust into a situation they did not necessarily ask to be a part of. The best thing you can do is address any issues raised and listen to the thoughts and needs of your child.
Who has the authority to approve medical treatment for your child?
In terms of the rights and duties of your child, there may be no more important right than the one that allows you to consent to medical treatment, including invasive procedures. Depending on your order, you may have the exclusive right to do so, you may share that right jointly, or you may have an independent right to make these sorts of decisions along with your child's other parent.
If your child were to be injured in an accident and needed emergency surgery, then you are likely not required to speak to your child's other parent to get their consent. You should check your order to make sure of this, but including an order like this in your final orders would be cumbersome and could potentially harm your child if that emergency procedure was essential for their healthy being.
The religious choice for families
One of the rights that are held independent of the other parent in most family law orders is the right to direct your child's moral and religious training when they are with you. That means that if you and your child's other parent are not a part of the same religion, then both of you can choose to have your child attend worship services with you during your periods of possession.
Depending on your child's age, they should be allowed to explore both faith traditions that they have been exposed to. Attempting to influence your child to have them accept your faith as being correct is dangerous and could work against you in the long run. Answer questions and do your best to expose your child to the religious traditions that are important to you. Just as with any relationship you have, be sure to listen to your child's thoughts whenever they want to make them known to you.
How to handle electronic communication
With technology being made available to more and more people, final-order language has begun to reflect this proliferation of technology. Notably, you are likely allowed to communicate using electronic means with your child when they have the other parent. You ought to negotiate for a particular day of the week, a time length for the communication, and other details that will help to ensure that communication attempts utilizing technology are effective.
Do not look at this as a way for your child's other parent to steal time away from you.
The communication orders will apply to both you and the other parent, so the same courtesy must be extended to you while your child is not in your home. In an attempt to be fair and allow a relationship for your child with both parents, I would recommend making sure that language allows electronic communication to be included in your order.
Special considerations for parents who were never married
If you were never married to the other parent of your child, there are special considerations that you need to take into account while your child custody case is ongoing. For one, a father's parental rights are not automatically established by law if he and the mother of a child were not married at the time of the child's birth. As such, you will need to acknowledge the child's paternity so that you can have the rights and duties of a father attached to you and your child.
Secondly, child support cannot be ordered unless you are determined to be the biological father of a child. In some circumstances, you may not have had an opportunity to develop a relationship with your child before finding out that they are your biological child.
In these situations, a judge is likely to allow you to have limited visitation with your child as you begin to build a relationship. Once your parenting skills are developed further, you will have unsupervised and expanded periods of possession as most fathers do.
Dating after a family law case
I have had a handful of clients ask me whether or not there is anything that can be done to ensure that their ex-spouse cannot date for a certain period after a divorce.
I'll tell them that the answer is no unless it is determined that the new significant other poses a risk of harm to the child. I have had a client in the past tell me on the day of a temporary order hearing that she has a new boyfriend- who, by the way, is a registered sex offender.
You can imagine my shock at learning this. Unsurprisingly, the opposing party was aware of this fact, and our client was awarded only supervised visitation with her child, who, to that point, had been living with her primarily.
Some final orders bar having an unrelated adult in the home for overnight purposes, but this will typically only extend to the parties during a family law case.
Advocating for you at all stages of your family law case- the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
The experienced attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, know that just because your case has settled in mediation, that does not mean our job as your attorneys is done. We will work to ensure that your final orders reflect the terms agreed to in mediation so that there are no unpleasant surprises for you down the line.
If you have any questions for one of our licensed family law attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact our office today. We offer free of charge consultations six days per week.