As the second parent to a child, if you have lived with the child for the past six (6) months, you have the same rights to the child as the child’s biological parent. However, in order to protect and enforce those rights, a court order is often necessary.
In order to request parenting time, you must show the court that you lived with the child for at least six (6) months and no more than six (6) months have passed since you resided with the child. You can then motion the court for parenting rights and responsibilities the same that any biological parent can request. If you are the child’s biological parent, there is no requirement that you live with the child.
A court ordered parenting plan helps to avoid a situation in which the child is being used as a pawn. For instance, with a court ordered parenting plan to follow, the first parent cannot tell the second, you can’t have little Johnny this weekend because you didn’t __________ (insert excuse here: tell me you were dating someone, give me money for gas, arrive on time to Johnny’s karate tournament, provide all organic meals to Johnny last visit). With a court order, both parents know the schedule for parenting time that will be followed regardless of these minor concerns, so the child cannot be used to get what the first parent wants.
More seriously, if the first parent tells you that you cannot see the child at all, there are no remedies without a court order. The earlier a court ordered parenting plan is put in place, the more the court can rely on the relationship currently built with the child, and does not have to repair any damage to the relationship based on time missed with the child.
Additionally, second parents do not have the right to request medical or educational records without their name on the child’s birth certificate or a court order. Medical and educational providers may refuse to speak with the second parent absent a court order. A second parent can establish their legal rights to the child through the courts.
Finally, a court order will tell the parents what support is due from one parent to another. This order can be back dated to when the child was born, so it is best to get these orders as early as possible to avoid a higher payment to make up for missed payments. Payments can be made prior to orders being issued to avoid this back child support amount.
If you and the other parent to your child get along well, and the two of you agree, you can deviate from the agreement and work with each other on minor, one time changes such as: if one parent needs to keep the child late because the other has to work late or the parents switch days to accommodate for one parent to take the child on a trip. It is best to have these agreements in writing, though text messages are generally sufficient. The parenting plan is there if the two of you are not able to reach an agreement on a change, then the terms spelled out in the parenting plan are what happens.
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The experienced and empathetic attorneys at Jorgensen, Brownell, & Pepin would be delighted to assist you in asserting your rights as a second parent.