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Child Custody, Parenting Plans, and Paternity Actions

Child Custody

Did you know that there are two different types of child custody? A parent with legal custody has the primary decision-making responsibility of the children and the legal authority to make major decisions on behalf of the children, while a parent with physical custody live with the children majority of the time or has more parenting time. With either of these types, one parent can have sole legal custody (one parent making majority of the decisions), sole physical custody (children are living with this parent majority of the time) or both parent can have joint legal and physical custody (when both parents share approximately equal responsibility for decision-making and approximately equal parenting time).

In many cases, if one parent has sole legal custody, that same parent also has sole physical custody. Some of the decisions that a parent with legal custody would make are the child or children’s school, religion, non-emergency medical care, and extracurricular activities. In some areas, the court can order a parenting coordinator in situations where parents have a difficult time agreeing on a decision involving children.

Parenting Plans

Parenting time is the time that the children spend with each parent. It is also known as visitation. There are different types of parenting time, which are described as:

  1. Unsupervised, when non-custodial parent visits children how and where they choose;

  2. Supervised, which occurs when a second responsible adult or supervisor are present for the duration of the visit. This person is usually a social worker or a court-appointed official. Supervised visits are most common in situations where unsupervised time risks the children’s emotional and physical development becoming impaired; and

  3. Virtual visitation, which is when a parent sees and communicates with the children by use of virtual technology, such as video chatting, instant messaging, and email. This typically occurs when the two parents live a great distance away from one another.

It is essential to remember that the decisions made regarding the children should be done so with their best interest in mind.

Parent planning is creating a schedule for the child or children to spend time with each parent or guardian. It is to help parents with arranging regular visitation, or parenting time. Parenting plans are required in divorce cases and often required in other cases in which child custody or visitation is at issue. These parenting plans are likely to discuss decisions such as:

Child custody and details of parenting time (such as the schedule, exchange locations and transportation); which party would have the decision-making responsibility (joint or sole); dispute resolution methods (some examples are mediation and arbitration), and education and extracurricular expenses, including college costs.

It is suggested that parties include provisions for future events, such as a teenager receiving a car, if tattoos and piercings will be allowed for children under 18, and curfew changes as children become older. The more thought and planning now allows for an easier transition later.

Paternity Actions

Paternity means fatherhood. If parties are/were married during the birth of the child, that father is the legal father. If parties are/were not married, paternity must be established for the father to be considered the legal father. An established paternity is in the best interest of the child because it affects health and life insurance, financial support from the father, medical history, and the emotional health of the child or children. One way to establish paternity is through the use of an affidavit acknowledging paternity. If an affidavit is completed at the hospital before the birth certificate is filed, then the man is the child’s official legal father. Only being on the birth certificate is not an enforceable custody order.

Establishing paternity means more than just having a father named on the child’s birth certificate. Establishing paternity offers numerous benefits for the child, the mother, and the father. Establishing paternity helps children have a relationship with both parent, learn about family history, including medical histories, and access medical insurance and other benefits like life insurance, Social Security, Veterans benefits, and inheritance.

Establishing paternity helps mothers to share the responsibilities of parenthood and share the costs of raising their child (once paternity is established, the mother may seek court ordered child support). Establishing paternity helps fathers to gain legal rights to their child (like being able to ask a court for custody of or visitation with their child), show they care about their child, establish a bond with their child, and participate in their child’s life.

If the paternity is contested, the mother or alleged father (or the child’s custodian) can order testing. The consent of the parent is not required. Once a paternity test is completed and the DNA test demonstrates at least a 98% probability that the alleged father s the biological father of the child, the juvenile court can enter an order establishing paternity.

Court ordered DNA testing is almost always used to establish the paternity of a child or children and are admissible in court as evidence.

If you or someone you know are seeking answers to questions, concerns, or inquiries about child custody or parental rights, call and schedule a consultation with Walls Law Firm today, and we will be glad to help you gain clarity!

Our law office is located in Memphis, Tennessee, but we also serve Bartlett, Germantown, Cordova, Collierville, Millington, Shelby Forest, Shelby Farms, Lakeland, Fisherville, Arlington, Eads, and Rosemark, Tennessee.

This information is for advertising purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or guarantee particular results.

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