Friday, April 24, 2009

Paternity action can define a parenting relationship

Parents who have a child when they are not married to each other can use a paternity action to legally define each parent's rights and responsibilities with regard to their child.

A paternity action will establish both child support and parenting time. Parenting time is the time each parent gets to spend with their child. These are both important considerations if you are breaking up with the other parent of your child.

Missouri encourages parents to share joint legal and joint physical custody of their children. Joint physical custody does not mean that the parents share equal amounts of time. It does mean that both parents have ongoing, significant time with the child.

Joint legal custody means that legally mom is still mom and dad is still dad. Both parents share decisions about their child's schooling, medical care, religious upbringing and activities.

If you are a dad who has been served with child support papers from the state, it is important for you to understand that the state will only establish child support. There will be no order defining your parenting time with your child. You need to bring a paternity action to set up your parenting time with your child.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What is a health care power of attorney and who needs one?

A health care power of attorney is a legal document that makes it possible for another person to direct your health care in the event you can't. The person you authorize to direct your health care is called your "agent" or "agent for health care".

While health care facilities may have health care powers of attorney available for you to sign, that power of attorney may or may not give you the opportunity to express your wishes. Be sure to carefully read the document before you sign it to make sure it says what you want it to say. And, make sure there is a HIPAA authorization that allows your health care providers to talk to your agent.

Married people frequently name their spouse as their agent. Unmarried people often name their partner if they are in a committed relationship. Other people named are children, brothers or sisters, or other family members. Anyone can be named as your health care agent. It is important to make sure you trust your agent completely as they will be making serious decisions on your behalf.

Who needs to have a health care power of attorney? Every adult needs a health care power of attorney.

If you are in a committed relationship, but not married, health care powers of attorney are of particular importance. The reason is that if your partner is seriously injured or develops a serious illness, you will be excluded from all care decisions. Under some circumstances, you may not be permitted in the hospital room to assist in the care of your partner. That's a possibility that doesn't need to happen.

Whether you are married or not, talk to your partner about his or her health care wishes. Let him or her know where your health care power and HIPAA document can be found. If you don't have a health care power or a HIPAA document, consider getting one - for your peace of mind and that of your partner or spouse.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Requirements for child support during college

In Missouri, parents who are paying child support can be ordered to help pay college expenses until the child reaches the age of 21. However, kids have to meet these requirements in order to maintain eligibility for college assistance from your parents:

1. You have to be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours (Nine credit hours if you work an average of 15 hours a week.)

2. You have to send both of your parents an official copy of your enrollment information at the first of the each semester and of your grades at the end of each semester.

Parental support can stop if:

1. You fail at least half of your classes in one semester;

2. You don't send your parents proof of your enrollment or proof of your grades each semester;

3. You drop classes so that you are not enrolled for enough hours for the semester; or

4. You take off for a semester -- whether that is for the first semester when you would normally start college or for later semester.

If you don't give your parents a copy of your grades and they ask for one, you have 30 days from when the school gives you the grades to get them to your parents. If you don't do that, after 30 days you can lose your eligibility for continued parental support.

Friday, April 3, 2009

When does child support stop for a child in Missouri?

If you are paying or receiving child support under a Missouri order, you may wonder when the child support ends. The general rule is that child support ends when one of the following happens:

1. death of the child;
2. the child gets married;
3. the child becomes self-supporting (but only if the residential custodian has given up parental control of the child);
4. the child enters the military;
5. the child reaches 18 years of age AND is no longer a full time student AND is not so disabled that the court extends child support beyond the child's 18th birthday;
6. The child continues his or her education beyond high school (either with college, university of a trade school) and notifies you, and completes enough credit hours and gets good enough grades to have child support continue.

Child support ENDS on the child's 21st birthday unless the court finds the child is disabled.

The parent receiving child support is supposed to send a notice to you and the court when the child no longer qualifies to receive child support. If she doesn't do that you can send the notice to the court.

If she doesn't notify you that the child support has ended, she may have to pay you back - with interest.

The notification form (with instructions) is here.