Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How do I get a custody or visitation case started?

This is usually how a custody or visitation case starts: a parent thinks to himself or herself "I have a child and I am not in a relationship with the other parent; I know something needs to be done to formalize some sort of arrangement but what do I do?"

First, you'll need to figure out what court you should be looking at (read here for more information on that). 

Next, you'll need to determine what it is you want to formalize. 

Do you know who the father is or do you know that you are the father?  If not, you may need to file a petition for adjudication of paternity.  This is typically a form that you fill out in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court asking the court to order a paternity test (DNA test) to determine who the father of the child is.  Once the test is complete, you would then be asking the court to "order" that whoever that person is, is the father of the child. 

Once the father is determined, what do you want done?  Custody is divided into two parts: legal custody is the determination of which parent, or both, gets to make major life decisions on the raising of the child (what religious denomination, what doctor, etc.)  Physical custody is who the child resides with the majority of the time.  If you want the court to determine these types of issues, you will need to petition the court to determine custody. 

Visitation is a separate issue and determines how much time and when the child will spend with the parent he/she does not permanently reside.  If you want visitation to be determined, you will also need to petition the court to determine visitation. 

Typically the final issue parents want a court to decide is child support.  This is the amount of money the parent with whom the child does not regularly reside will pay to the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time in order to support the child.  This money is for the support of the child but is paid to the other parent, not the child directly.  This amount is typically determined by a formula but can be adjusted for various reasons. 

To sum it up, if you want everything to be determined and formalized, you will need to 1) petition for paternity, 2) petition for custody, 3) petition for visitation and 4) petition for child support.  These, most likely, will technically be different cases but will likely all be heard in the same hearing and a determination will be made on all in the same day (occasionally this is not possible and there will be separate hearing dates).  These are simply the documents to get the process started.  From here you will need to be able to prove your case and show the court what the best interests of your children are and how you want these cases to be determined. 

If you are going through a custody or divorce case and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.