To preface this story, I am always studying because well, I’m a law student and we’re constantly studying. The flight time is generally one hour and thirty minutes, which is plenty of time to get some reading done.
Recently, I was on a flight from Sacramento (SMF) to San Diego (SAN) and had a very interesting experience when my neighbor found out I work in family law.
Here I am in seat 2D, reading my case briefs on my iPad while listening to classical music on my AirPods minding my own business. The plane is currently cruising, my seat is reclined to its maximum position and I am enjoying my second IPA when the questions start …
“What are you reading?”Me: Excuse me? What?
“I see that you are focused on what you are reading. What are you reading?”me:
Current scene: I am now removing one of my AirPods, placing my IPA on the fold out table, whilst picking up bottled water the child has kicked off the arm rest, and turning toward my neighbor.
Me: I am currently reading a case brief about Constitutional Law.Neighbor: Oh! That’s interesting. Why?
Me: I’m in law school …Neighbor: Wow, where?!
Me: … Your son is adorable, what is his name?
As you might be able to tell, this conversation eventually leads into the common, what do you do for work. To which, an endless stream of family law related questions commences and I attempt to divert each rapid fire question as best I can.
1. Single Mother.
2. Father is not on the Birth Certificate.
3. Father did not sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDOP).
4. Father has not filed for paternity or claimed the child to be his own.
5. Mother plans to raise the child, without the Father, and is not seeking financial support as she does not want him involved.
My neighbor’s most concerning question: “What are my rights?”
As with every type of law, the answer is always, “It depends.” What’s a bit comical about that phrase is that law school professors ALWAYS respond to student’s questions with, “it depends.” The reason this response is valid is because every situation is different and with law, one must examine all the facts to determine what the outcome may be.
For example, let’s use the “what are my rights?” question to start the analysis.
“What are my rights?”Well, I don’t know. What are you referring to? Are you asking what are your rights as a parent? What are your rights as a single mother? What are your rights in terms of raising a child alone? What are you rights for financial support? This question is so broad it’s almost irrelevant to family law as specificity is required to answer specific questions.
Let’s assume the question might have been, “what are my rights concerning child custody when the father is not in the picture?” This is a more answerable question. However, let’s revise to make the topic more specific.
What are my parental rights for full custody of my child when the Father has never been involved, is not on the Birth Certificate, and did not sign a voluntary declaration of paternity, and I have never filed anything with the court. In addition, Father is aware he has a child but has not confirmed nor denied the child as his.This question, is more specific. Now we can dive into how a family law attorney can assist with this situation.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this should not be considered legal advice. You should seek appropriate counsel for your own situation. And please note, this post is directed towards readers in California. If you are conducting family law related matters outside California, I hightly encourage you to find and understand your obligations regarding disclosure.
- Ask yourself, “What do I want?”
- Determine if you are able to perform all the legal stuff yourself or if you need to hire a family law attorney to walk you through the entire process and advocate on your behalf.
1. Ask yourself, “What do I want?”This is the biggest question. If you want to take control of your parental rights, start by accepting this process may not be easy nor simple. Mentally prepare yourself for process as child custody is no simple task. Tell yourself, “this is for my child, I am going to do this for his/her future.”
If you decide to fill out and submit all the paperwork, just know that the Court requires specific procedures to be followed and may reject documents without explaining why. If you choose this route, you will be referred to as “In Pro Per,” a term used to describe an person without an attorney.
2. Determine if you are able to perform all the legal stuff yourself or if you need to hire a family law attorney to walk you through the entire process and advocate on your behalf.
Your best bet is to conduct research. Research and learn all you can about the court in your city relating to family law and submitting all your pleadings and request for orders.
If you determine that hiring a family law attorney is in your best interest, then I applaud your decision. Family law attorney and their paralegals / legal assistants specialize in understanding and adhering to local court rules and procedures. This will save you a substantial amount of headaches and frustration.
People in the legal field are reluctant to provide any form of advice to people’s “hypothetical” scenarios because the answer is complicated. Every answer depends on the specific situation and which courthouse handles the case.
My plane neighbor ended up leaving the plane without any new information from me. I believe her intent was to find out how to file parentage and obtain full custody of her child. Based on the story, one may be able to see that there were many components involved with discussing such issues.
This is why a consultation with a family law attorney is very important. If anything, you will have a licensed attorney provide answers to your questions catered to your specific situation and courthouse.
It may be possible that you may not need to file documents with the court or perhaps you do and the attorney will notify you of expected fees. Did you know that to open a case in California the cost is $435.00? Yup. And depending on what you are filling, there are additional fees.
Bottom line: Ask around about family law attorneys. Generally, the safe best is to use one that a friend or family member has already used. If you don’t know of any, do a search. Research the firm and their employees. Once you have determined the firm you would like to engage in, call the office and schedule an appointment.
A clear indication of a firm’s operations is the way they answer their phones. You should always know who you are calling, who you are speaking to, and how polite they are.