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2013_09_15 BC Custody

Disclaimer: Before I get started with post, I want to be clear that I am in NO way offering legal advice nor am I in any way condoning removing a father from a child’s life. {You can read a bit more about my feelings on father’s here.} What I am offering is awareness, so that you can be intentional about seeking God in regards to what, if anything, needs to be formalized in your life.

There are many ways in which one can become a single mom. Some get divorced after children are born and some were never married to the father{s} of their children. Then of course there are countless combinations in between. The manner in which your children came in to the world and how you became a single mom have a profound effect on what the legal custody of children looks like. This legal custody is a crucial aspect of your life, especially while the children are younger. It, in truth, has the ability to bind the things you can and cannot do.

In the United States there are four main ways that a man gains parental rights over a child: 1. being married to the mother at the time of birth, 2. signing the birth certificate immediately after birth, 3. proving paternity through DNA testing, and 4. adoption. {Please know this is not an extensive list and that the impact of these will vary by state.} These parental rights afford them varying influence in regards to the children and thus to you as well.

The importance of this varies depending on your situation. Many are able to go through life as a single mom without ever needing to deal with custody entanglements, while many others are living a nightmare due to the status of the legal custody of their children. No matter what your situation, though, this is not something you want to remain in the dark about.  It is important to both the future of you and your children that you are aware of the laws surrounding what rights the father{s} of your children are entitled to.

Most only consider this in relation to visitation and child support, but there are countless areas of life where being caught unaware can be devastating to your children, and you as well. One of these is in relation to healthcare. In the case of an emergency a father with proof of rights, regardless of his involvement, or lack thereof, in the life of that child can exercise that right over the decision being made in regards to that child’s health. With all the talk of healthcare, it is also crucial to note that his financial status can also influence the process by which you can or cannot obtain healthcare coverage for your children.

Another area not usually considered is education. Everything from the type of school you place them in, whether they go to a traditional school or you homeschool, and even college entrance can be impacted in negative ways by the legal influence the father has in that child’s life.  This is especially the case when any sort of relocation is involved.  Truthfully, relocation is the way in which I have seen this rear its ugly head most often, especially when that relocation involves leaving the country, even if only temporarily. Ladies have had to give up amazing opportunities that would have placed them in a position that their households could really thrive in because they were blindsided by an unknown right of the father and he exercised it at a crucial moment and children have been denied amazing opportunities to study or travel abroad in that same manner.

Lastly, there is the “in case of death or incapacitation” aspect of this. Without the right legal processes and such, your will and even living trust can be challenges and overridden by a father’s rights. This can be one of the most tragic to the child. Not only have the lost a parent, or lost access to a parent, but now their lives may be turned upside in every other way as well.  Keep in mind these are merely a few of the ways it can impact on obscure area of life. There are countless others.

There are, however, things you can do to improve your chances of maintaining peace in this area:

1. First and foremost, whenever possible, maintain an open line of communication and a good relationship with the father. Co-parenting from two different households in very difficult, but it is possible. It does, however, require putting aside the differences that separated you as adults so that you can come together as parents. Discuss plans, consequences, and what is important in regards to the child and work together to come up with the best solution for that child.

2. Learn about all that legal aspects that surround your situation. There are many legal aid organizations that will help you look into this and many of them will do it for free. Take a look at them especially in light of the things that God has placed upon your heart. If there are any loose ends or things that may potential become an issue down the line, start looking into getting that taken care of now. If nothing else, at least you will be aware of potential issues and better prepared for them. Most often in the United States the mother, as long as she is fit, wins these challenges. The danger comes from the timing of them and the fact that they are not prepared for. Being prepared to take them head on in advance can considerably reduce the negative impact.

3. Be intentional about protecting your child legally and make those actions publicly known. The more people that can vouch for your situation and the course that has been taken with that child, the better your chances of establishing a legal foothold should those challenges arise. Write out your plans and processes, discuss them with others, and make them legally binding whenever possible. This cost can also be offset with the use of legal aid and other organizations designed to help those with limited income with legal matters.

I pray none of you ever have to deal with an ugly challenge to the scope of your parental rights, but it is much better to be prepared and never have to use it than to need it and not have it. So take some time over the next few months and get familiar with the legal side of life and the potential implications it may have on your future and the future of your child. I pray you Divine guidance and inspiration. May He lead you in His will and protect and cover you as you walk in it. Blessings beloved! Shalom!~

Surrendered to Him~
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2 Responses

  1. This is a very informative post. One that many may fear tackling because it can be controversial – but I agree with you 100%!

    • ~rose~
      | Reply

      Thank you Rosilind! It was actually your coverage of single moms and missions that helped me to hear Ruach {Sprit} speak that this series needed to be written! I am grateful for support. It is an unpopular topic and one packed full of emotions, but those are the very reasons why it gets buried and never dealt with. Then something happens and you have instant catastrophe. I hope to raise some aware and equip some women along the way! Blessings dear sister!~

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