Friday, May 29, 2009

Missouri set to allow dads to challenge final paternity judgment

There's a law working it's way through the Missouri legislature that will permit dads to challenge final paternity judgments under certain circumstances.

What has been happening is that men would be named as the biological father of a child who is not really their biological child in an administrative action. The man then either throws the paperwork from the child support agency away because he's sure he's not the dad (you laugh, but it does happen) or blows off the hearing. Since the man doesn't seem to object, the child support agency makes a finding of paternity against him and enters a child support order.

As it usually happens, time goes by. The man (who is now declared to be dad) forgets all about the paperwork he got from the child support folks. Then, eventually there comes a knock at his door. The next thing that comes about is a warrant for his arrest for nonsupport or his paycheck is garnished. Neither of these results is exactly good news for him. After all, remember, he's not really the biological dad of a child - at least not as far as he knows.

So - a bad result has happened.

The first thing that springs to the guy's mind is: Wait a minute - I'm not this child's father. So off he goes to hire an attorney to fix it.

Under the current law, the child support part of the problem doesn't go away. You have already had a chance to show you're not dad. You blew it off. So you can't complain now.

That's going to change in a significant way if this new bill is signed by the governor. If the bill passes, guys who have already been determined to be the father of a child will have a two year period to bring the issue back in front of the court, get paternity testing and get your child support arrearages (if any) taken off.

If the bill is signed into law, guys who are just now entering in the child support system, will have two years from the date on which the child support order is entered against them.

There are some other legal hoops that you will need to deal with if you want to bring child support up again. The only effective way to address it is to get help from your attorney. He or she will be able to guide you through the requirements.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Do I have to move from my house if I file for divorce in Missouri?

From time to time urban legends relating to family law matters get passed around. This morning one was passed my way. The scary thing about this legend is that it was attributed to an attorney (who should have known better).

Supposedly, if you file for divorce here in Missouri, you have to move out of your house and let your spouse stay. Here's the real skinny on that: All things being equal, you don't have to move out of your house just because you file a divorce here in Missouri. I can't vouch for other states (I don't practice in other states). But here in Missouri, all things being equal, you don't have to move just because you file for a divorce.

The kinds of things that make things not equal generally involve one of the spouses behaving badly. Such as - hitting, shoving, and other similar bad behaviors. In those cases, one or the other of the spouses will leave the house, whether voluntarily or otherwise.

Conversely, if you want to move out of the house when you file for divorce - you can do that. You just don't have to unless there is something about your particular situation that requires you to move.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Keep track of your Missouri case on CaseNet

If you are wondering what's happening on your Missouri case, the court has made it really simple to find out.

Every case that has been filed in Missouri, except municipal court cases and cases that are sealed, can be tracked on a system called CaseNet. Paternity cases, that is, cases involving children where the parents are unmarried, are sealed and cannot be tracked on CaseNet.

For other cases, you can find out when your next court date is and you can find out what court documents have been filed.

Access to CaseNet is a free service of the Missouri courts.

You can access CaseNet by clicking here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

School District services for disabled children

School districts have educational services available for disabled children - whether the child is autistic or has another disability. The districts seek out the children who qualify for these services. If you have a disabled child, it is a good idea to contact the director for special education for the school district or the principal at your child's school to ask for an "IEP meeting." That request should be made in writing. The school district is then required to hold a meeting within thirty days from your request for a meeting.

At the first IEP meeting for a child, the school district has to assess your child to see where he or she needs educational help. Then, the district will then report back to you with it's offer of services for the next year.

The IEP meeting will probably be recorded. You may even hear what sounds like an offer in the meeting. The verbal "offer" is not the offer of services being given to your child. Only a written offer binds the school district to the services offered.

The IEP has to include your child's present level of performance with regard to his or her educational challenges. This will be determined based on testing assessments as well as observations from your child's teachers, other school staff - and you as your child's parent. This will set up a starting point to develop your child's goals for the upcoming year.

The IEP must, then, set out how the goals are going to be achieved and what services will be provided and how frequently these services will be provided. Some of the services that can be a part of a child's IEP are:

speech and language pathology services
occupational therapy services
deaf and hard of hearing services
mobility services
emotional counseling services
reading and language services
audiological services
visual services
adapted physical education
individualized behavior interventions services and
other services as needed.