Articles Posted in Children

Joint Custody -- photo of pen and corner of eyeglasses lying on a Child Custody agreementDivorce may be the answer to a troubled marriage but when children are involved, the relationship between spouses never truly ends. Although divorce negotiations can sometimes be bitter, custody arrangements require cooperation if they are to work.

There are various forms of custody designed to suit the unique circumstances of individual families. However, most people believe that joint custody, if possible, is best for the children. For this, couples need to put aside their differences and focus on the needs of their children. To learn how to do that, read “9 Rules to Make Joint Child Custody Work.”

Child custody -- photo of girl with her back to camera staring out windowWhen it comes to making decisions regarding child custody matters, courts take into account the ‘best interests of the child.’ However, what is actually in the child’s best interest may not always be easy to ascertain. Consider this recent case out of California.

The Page family of Santa Clarita, CA, lost custody of a young girl they had been fostering since 2011 when the Department of Children and Family Services of Los Angeles County took her from their home last month and placed her with extended family in Utah. The reason? The girl has traces of Native American ancestry – 1/64th percent – and as such, the court ruled that her custody is determined by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. That Act states, in part, that Native American children should be kept with Native American families. For more details about this custody battle, read “6-Year-Old Girl Taken From Longtime California Foster Family for Being 1/64 Native American.”

Tri-parenting custody: photo of man and child walking in water along beachWith the growing acceptance of surrogacy, same-sex marriage and unwed relationships, the definition of family is not so simple these days. There was a time when family meant mother, father and children; today there are not only biological parents, but surrogate mothers, adoptive parents, and even psychological parents. This new definition of family may have opened doors for non-traditional couples looking to create families, but it raises greater questions of who has the right to custody if and when these relationships dissolve.

A New Jersey case recently released for publication concerns a group of three friends – one female and two males – who entered into what has been coined a “tri-parenting arrangement.” According to reports, the friends agreed to conceive a child using the egg of the female and sperm of one of the males, making them the child’s biological parents. The male’s same-sex partner was considered the child’s psychological parent and given an equal role in the child’s upbringing. In the beginning, all went well but everything changed when the female sought to relocate from New Jersey to California and bring the child with her.

The ultimate decision of who had rights to custody of the child was left to a New Jersey family court, which decided the issue based on the best interest of the child. To read more, see “‘Tri-parenting’ in New Jersey family court.”

grandparents-rights-400-06098211dIn an ideal world, grandparents and grandchildren share nurturing relationships that can prove beneficial for both generations. Sometimes, however, rifts in the relationship between the grandparents and their own children and/or their children’s spouses can adversely affect the relationship between grandparent and grandchild. In extreme cases, the courts may be called upon to determine whether or not the grandparent/grandchild relationship can be saved. In those instances, it may fall to the grandparents to show proof that preserving their relationship with their grandchild would be in the best interest of that child. See the New Jersey law case Major v. Maguire.

snow shoveling bill -- photo of person shoveling snow from walkway of a homeIt isn’t unusual in winter to see teenagers shoveling their neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways in exchange for a little extra spending money. In fact, most people would applaud these teens for their hard work. And if they take the initiative to schedule snow removal jobs in response to a snowy forecast, most people would congratulate them for their entrepreneurial nature; however, this advance scheduling could put them in danger of breaking the law. Some New Jersey lawmakers want to change that.

The State Assembly was expected to vote today on a bill, a version of which gained unanimous approval by the State Senate last May, allowing New Jersey’s teens to solicit snow removal jobs without regulation. This bill was drafted in response to an incident last January in which a couple of Bound Brook teens were stopped by local police from handing out flyers in their neighborhood announcing their snow removal services. According to reports, the teens were warned that their actions were in violation of the municipality’s anti-solicitation laws. To read more on this issue, read “Could your kids be breaking the law when it snows?

car seat safety: photo of baby dressed in heavy fur coat buckled into child safety seatFor decades now, statistics have shown that it is safer for young children to be in properly sized child safety seats when riding in the car. From time to time, news stories pertaining to car seat safety remind parents to make sure their car seats are properly installed and alert them to manufacturers’ recalls when faulty details are uncovered. Now there is a new car seat safety concern to be aware of.

According to recent reports, children wearing heavy winter coats may not be as securely fastened into their safety seats as parents may think. The fact is the very coats that are keeping children snug and warm could prove hazardous in the event of a car accident. For details and tips for correcting this problem, see “Car seat alert: Could wearing a winter coat endanger your child?

photo of man and woman standing apart with their backs to each other and heads downFor couples coping with fertility issues, in vitro fertilization (IVF) can help dreams come true. IVF is a procedure through which human eggs are fertilized outside of the body and often frozen and stored for future use, making it possible for some couples who had difficulty conceiving to become biological parents nonetheless. Sometimes, however, relationships don’t work out as expected – couples go their separate ways; marriages end in divorce. In situations such as these, what becomes of the stored embryos?

This has been the question of several lawsuits, most recently a case in San Francisco, CA, which made national news. According to an msn.com article, “S.F. woman who sought to have embryos preserved loses legal case,” a California couple underwent the IVF procedure shortly before their wedding after learning the woman had cancer and that the intended treatment was expected to leave her infertile. While the woman survived her illness, the marriage did not last and a petition for divorce was filed in August of 2013, prompting the issue of the couple’s frozen embryos to come up.

The couple had signed an agreement with the reproduction center that performed the IVF procedure stating that the embryos should be given to the surviving spouse only upon the death of his or her partner; under any other circumstances, including divorce, the unused embryos were to be destroyed. Despite this agreement, the woman sought to protect her chance at becoming a biological parent and claimed the agreement was signed in haste.

Car seats: photo of baby being fastened into car seatJust as New Jersey parents were adapting to new car seat laws that went into effect this past September 1, a new study gives them something else to worry about – does their car seat even fit in their car?

The new car seat law, which we reported on here earlier this summer, was expected to clear up confusion for parents when deciding which model of car seat was most appropriate for their children. The new law outlined very strict guidelines for when to use booster seats versus car seats and which way to face the car seat according to the child’s age and size. Now a new study indicates that even if parents abide by all these regulations, their child’s safety may still be in jeopardy if the car seat does not properly fit the car in which it is being used.

According to a recent article on nj.com, dozens of tests were conducted only to find that some car restraint seats simply do not fit certain cars properly, posing serious consequences for children. One of the problems is that while cars are getting smaller, car seats are getting bigger and this discrepancy in size can affect the angle at which the car seat sits.

children of same-sex marriage; photo of young girl kneeling on park benchWhen the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision that paved the way for legally-sanctioned, same-sex marriages, it granted couples in those unions equal accessibility to some of the same rights traditional married couples enjoyed. These rights include, but are not limited to, such things health insurance coverage under family plans, social security and insurance survivor’s benefits, and involvement in end-of-life medical decisions. While the Court’s ruling did protect spouses in same-sex relationships, it seems to have failed to go far enough to protect children of those relationships.

In traditional relationships, there is such a thing as marital presumption. This presumption means that with children born into a marriage, a legal parent-child relationship is recognized between the children and their mothers’ husbands regardless of the existence of any biological relationship between the two. This same presumption does not exist for children of same-sex marriages.

Beyond denying certain financial and health benefits to children of same-sex marriage, the lack of this presumption could prove disruptive to the child’s family life as well. In traditional marriages, if something were to happen to a child’s biological mother, the father would still be considered a legal parent. That is not the case in same-sex marriages where the non-biological parent has no marital presumption. Adoption is not always the answer either since a number of states fail to recognize adoptions by same-sex spouses.

Divorce and special needs children: picture of back of girl sitting alone in playgroundDivorce affects every family member, but it can be especially difficult for families with special needs children.

In the process of obtaining a divorce, couples will also work details involving child custody, visitation and support arrangements. Generally, the best interest of the child is taken into consideration when arriving at these arrangements. Usually, unless circumstances cause the arrangements to be challenged, they will remain in effect until the child reaches 18, finishes school or is otherwise emancipated. This is not necessarily the case, however, when the child in question is afflicted with an emotional, physical or medical disability.

Parents of special needs children face other considerations when they are divorcing. Because special needs children often need physical, emotional and financial support well past the age of majority, and because they sometimes have extreme difficulties adjusting to frequent changes in their environment, special considerations need to be made regarding their custody, visitation and financial support.