CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BIRTH OF YOUR BABY!
There is nothing quite like the moment when your child is first born. You gaze with awe at this little being; so perfect, so fragile, so helpless. Filled with awe at this life you helped create, you vow to try and do everything for him or her, to help them to become the amazing person they are meant to be. It's an unforgettable moment. Proud parents look at each other with love and joy, sharing an experience no one else can know.
The Hidden Danger
Hi, I'm Mindy Hitchcock, the founder of Lady4Justice PLLC. After almost 30 years of practicing law, and extensive family law experience, I can tell you that mothers are not inherently better parents than dads. I've seen some horrible mothers, and I've seen extraordinary fathers, just as capable of nurturing their child as the mom, or better. But if you're a single father, then in Michigan (and most other states) you already have a big strike against you. Because Michigan favors marriage, and its laws punish single parents. Actually, it punishes single fathers. Single moms and single dads are treated very differently, even though more than 50% of babies are now born to single parents! For example, what if your child gets seriously ill and her mother isn't around? Well, if you are on the birth certificate, you can at least go to court and try to get emergency authority to consent to treatment. If you aren't on the birth certificate, you don't even have standing (the right) to go to court. You are nobody, as far as the court is concerned. That's not exactly the time you want to start a case and ask for a DNA test to prove you are the dad.
The way Michigan law currently stands, a single father faced with a child needing serious medical treatment, if the mother is unavailable, has to rush to court, asking the court to give him authority to help his child. The court may grant it immediately...or it may appoint a stranger (called a guardian ad litem) to make medical decisions on behalf of the child while it considers the father's request. Unlike a married father, a single father has no presumption of custody and no presumption of authority to make decisions about medical treatment on behalf of his own child! HIPPA law (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 [P.L. 104-191]) makes it worse, as it blocks access to medical records unless you have custodial rights. In a life-threatening emergency, a father would probably be able to obtain medical treatment for his child, yet be blocked by HIPPA from finding out the details, without custodial rights. Is this the position you want to find yourself in? Of course not.
That's not the only way the bias against single dads hurts the father, and his child. In my years of experience, I've seen that treating a single father like a stranger to his own child is harmful in many ways. First, he is disrespected and essentially powerless to protect his own flesh and blood and get them necessry medical care. Second, the psychological impact of being treated like an outsider right from the start can cause him to feel and then actlike an outsider. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I'm treated like a stranger to my own family, as someone who can't be trusted, then often I will end up acting that way. It takes love and a strong connection to manage the challenges of parenthood. If that connection isn't there, the father may just give up and move on. Certainly that's not what the legal bias in favor of marriage intended - it's intended to coerce people into marrying - but that's what often happens.
And then there are the committed fathers who stick it out and fight for their right to be an equal parent, if their relationship with the child's mother goes south. And this will lead to long and expensive litigation, thousands upon thousands of dollars, if the mother resists those efforts. The bias is strongly in favor of the single mother. She is presumed to have sole legal and physical custody. So if she decides to make you the bad guy or make false accusations against you, well, its a one-sided fight only the most committed fathers have the stomach for. Who is the biggest loser in this scenario? The child, of course, who loves and needs you both.
It doesn't have to be that way.
My firm is a family law firm, and I have seen this sad dilemma played out in endless variations in court. We have an adversary system: "you" -vs- "her," so you are immediately set up on different sides of the question, and it grows from there. Sometimes parents fight for years and spend the equivalent of a child's college education, arguing over custodial rights and time in their beloved child's life. The fight takes over the family, and hurts them all. And your dream of raising that child together is over. But that isn't how it's supposed to be. My firm is committed to supporting two parent families, whether they are married or single, whether they live together or not. We want to help parents stay out of court so they can enjoy raising their children, co-parenting, together. And put their money in their chid's education fund, where it belongs. That's why I created the No Parent Left Behind Plan - to eliminate the legal challenge that single fathers face, before it ever happens.
How It Works
The No Parent Left Behind Plan is simple, and that's why it works. Some details vary, depending upon whether or not paternity was established (and how) at the time your child was born. But the end result is that you both receive the custody presumption married couples enjoy, legally, but without the expensive, time-consuming process you would have to endure doing it the "traditional" way for non-married couples; that is, a court battle. It is legal recognition of your important place in your child's life, without you having to engage in protracted litigation. The Plan secures your authority to take your child to the doctor or hospital, school events, church or other important family traditions you have. It also means you are equally entitled to have what the law calls "parenting time" with your child. The No Parent Left Behind Plan acknowledges the crucial and unique role that each parent plays in the child's life, and makes you equal partners in raising your child, even though you chose not to marry. Some day, the legal system will catch up with the current reality that more and more children are born to single parents. But you won't have to wait until that happens. And as a father, you won't be treated like a second class citizen.
What About Child Support?
I've never met anyone who was enthusiastic about paying child support, even though they willingly spend money to provide for their chilld. But no one likes to be ordered to pay, through the court. And with the No Parent Left Behind Plan, you don't have to. Happy single fathers living with your girlfriend, you are already supporting your child! So the State doesn't need to interfere. And frankly, the Plan is designed to serve single fathers still living with their girlfriend, or at least on very good terms. It is based on the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." And when it comes to single dads' custody rights, boy is it ever true! While it might seem like only the dads benefit from this Plan, nothing could be further from the truth. Studies show, and my experience has proven, that children need both parents in their lives to grow up with the best chance of success. That's my ulterior motive in creating the Plan. I want every child in Michigan to be given every possible advantage to succeed in life. No child should have to be afraid to love one parent for fear of hurting the other. But that is the loyalty bind that commonly happens, when you take it to court.
What the Plan Does
The No Parent Left Behind Plan establishes you both as equal partners, committed to raising your child together, in a loving child-centered environment. You both make a statement to your child, even if he is too young to realize it, that you are putting his welfare above all by giving both parents an equal place in his life. As parents, your willingness to make this acknowledgment public, and legal, speaks volumes about your love for your child. It cements the personal relationship that each of you has with your child; a commitment to be there for him or her, come what may. You both agree to joint legal and physical custody, which is the most important agreement you can make.
The effect of this simple act is amazing. Children learn what they live, and your actions communicate a sense of family unity that words never could. It's also smart. Not only does it ensure that you will not have to engage in a bitter and costly custody battle, it also instills a sense of responsibility and pride in you as a single father, recognized as an equal player in the parent game. For the mother, it's a statement that says, "You matter, and I trust you to love and raise this child side-by-side with me." Instead of being on the outside looking in.
What the Plan Does Not Do
The No Parent Left Behind plan does not establish parenting time (i.e., what specific days each of you have with the child), and it does not establish child support. It does not need to, since you are together, and hopefully will remain so. Specific parenting time and support remain open to be addressed later if needed. The No Parent Left Behind plan also does not empty your bank account like a bitter custody battle will do. It gives you proactive results, at a fraction of the cost, for a flat fee. Could I make it any more appealing? This allows you as new parents to work together, and save together for your child's college education, for trips, or maybe plan for that new home. All the wonderful things you can do to love and enjoy your growing child, with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are equally committed to your child's best interest. That's what we call a win-win. In fact, we believe so strongly in the value of this Plan that we would venture to say that a new mother's resistance to offer or accept, the role of equal parents may be cause for immediate concern.
Find Out More
Children grow up so fast, and every minute with them is precious. As you celebrate this special moment, give them the best gift of all; the gift of two parents. Call today to schedule your appointment, and make sure that no parent is left behind!
30100 Telegraph Road, Suite 317
Bingham Farms, MI 48025