Don't Take "No" for an Answer When It Comes to the Education of Your Special Needs Child

Parents are entitled to receive Prior Written Notice when their child's school refuses to implement a change to the child's IEP at the parent's request.  Federal law requires that the notice have several components.  Do not settle for any thing less than what's required under the law.

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Fathers' Rights During the Holidays (and Throughout the Year)

I am the biological father of a child that I had with my ex-girlfriend.  I want to visit with my son this holiday season, but his mother will not allow me to see him.  What can I do?

Fathers in Georgia Do Not Automatically Receive Rights

First, you need to establish your legal rights to visit with your son.  In Georgia, if you father a child with a woman to whom you were not married when the child was born, you have no automatic legal rights to the child.  To establish legal rights to your child, you should go to the superior court of your county and file a Petition for Legitimation.  It does not matter if your name is on the child’s birth certificate.  Having your name on the child's birth certificate only makes you the putative father (i.e. the man who's assumed to be the father).  A court order is the best way (and in most cases, the only way) to establish your legal rights to your child.  An administrative (i.e. does not require a court order) means of legitimating your child does exist; however, it must be completed before the child's first birthday, and it cannot be used to establish visitation rights.  To learn more about legitimating a child administratively, visit the Administrative Office of the Courts' website for a document on establishing paternity and legitimation under Georgia law.

If your child's mother agrees to the legitimation, (which does not seem likely since she does not want you to visit with him) then you should have her sign a Mother's Consent to Legitimation and file it with your Petition.  That should make the process move a lot more quickly and keep you from having a drawn out court hearing. 

It Is Best to Legitimate When the Child is Young

When trying to legitimate your son, his age matters, as well as the steps you have taken to establish a relationship with him over the course of his lifetime.  Courts will be reluctant to legitimate your relationship with your son if he is an older child and you have not established a relationship with him.  However, if you have a good reason for not legitimating the child when he was younger the court may take that factor into consideration. 

In addition, the court will look at whether you have provided your son with sufficient financial support over the course of his lifetime.  If you are providing your son with financial support, you should gather as much documentation as possible to support this (i.e. receipts, post office delivery confirmations, bank statements, etc.).  Even without a court order establishing paternity or legitimation, you are obligated by state law to financially support the child if you are his father. 

In addition to filing a Petition for Legitimation in Superior Court, you should also file a Petition for Visitation in order to establish your rights to visit with your child.  The common practice would be to combine the two petitions in a Petition for Legitimation and Visitation.  If you request visitation rights with your request for legitimation, you should also attach a proposed visitation schedule with the petition that you file with the court.

One of our child custody lawyers will be happy to speak with you about your situation

We strongly advise that you talk with an attorney before filing a Petition for Legitimation or Petition for Legitimation and Visitation, especially if the child's mother does not consent to the legitimation.  Georgialegalaid.org provides pro se forms on their website, but legitimation and visitation cases can get pretty complex and need to be done correctly from the very beginning.  Please contact our office to have one of our skilled attorneys assist you with your legitimation and visitation matter. 

Spend Wisely This Holiday Season

If you are like most Americans, you probably have already started your holiday shopping. For those who have some shopping left to do, consider the following tips to help you spend wisely this season so that you are not saddled with debt after the holiday bliss fades away.

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Understanding your school's student discipline process

Whether you are an innocent bystander or active participation in a behavior incident at school, you need to know your rights in case you become involved with the school discipline system.  Read on to learn what steps you should take should you or your child face a suspension or expulsion from school.

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BETTY’S BACK TO SCHOOL TIP #1: Unconditional Love

“Back to School” is the time of year to which many parents look forward .  We hope that our child’s temperament, teacher, and school will be a good fit.  We prepare our children physically by buying the latest fashions and stocking up on school supplies.  We make all the preparations that we believe are necessary for a successful school year with the hope that this school year will be better than the year before.  However, parents must prepare themselves for the academic aspect of Back to School as well.  As a result, over the next several weeks, my partner and I will alternately post Back to School tips to help parents get started on the right foot this school year.  With myself being a parent, my posts will focus primarily on the dynamics of parenting and nurturing the parent-child relationship.  My partner’s posts will provide information on your legal rights as a parent and ensure that you are well equipped to advocate for your child during this school year. 

First, parents must constantly remind themselves that a child is a gift from God.  Typically, the birth of a child will alter the lives of the two individuals that conceived the child.  Most often, these changes manifest in the way the parents spend their money and time.  New parents have an innate desire and ability to feel and display “love” to their newborn child.  When our children are infants and toddlers, we as parents shower our children with love through gifts, birthday parties, a good education, toys, games, clothes, bedroom furniture, etc.  We pride ourselves on how much we love our children.  In these early years, parents display what I call “unconditional love” to their children.  Unconditional love means love without any strings attached; children don’t have to do anything to earn their parents’ affection, gifts, smiles, and kind words. 

However, a phenomenon takes place when children enter grade school.  At that time, parents tend to develop several unspoken expectations of the child that precede the release and level of love a child will receive from them.  Those expectations are based on the child’s satisfactory performance of the following specific behaviors:

1.        Thou shall respect your principal, teachers, and staff.

2.        Thou shall behave appropriately in school. 

3.        Thou shall be actively engaged in learning at school.

4.        Thou shall finish your classwork every day and homework every night.

5.        Thou shall be organized and stay on top of your assignments, tests, and quizzes. 

6.        Thou shall sit quietly in class.

7.        Thou shall not distract others from learning.

8.        Thou shall bring home “A’s” on your report card.

9.        Thou shall learn how to read and write.

10.     Thou shall not hang out with the bad kids at school.

Many parents may believe it is simple for children to perform the above behaviors .  However, children with special or unmet needs may find it almost impossible to meet each of the standards on the list.  If your child falls into this category, he or she may put a great deal of strain on your time, energy, money, and household relationships.  When your child enters school, you will focus the majority of the time you spend with them on school.  For many parents, as their child gets older and the demands of school become greater, “fun time” gradually becomes a thing of the past.  Spending quality time with your child ends up being a goal that your child’s therapist recommends rather than something that occurs naturally.  Unfortunately, parents may begin to believe that their child is intentionally failing to perform the expectations in the above list in a satisfactory manner, which leads  some parents to withdraw love and replace love with anger, disappointment, and sometimes emotional and physical abuse.  

A parent’s love should be patient, kind, long suffering, and most importantly, unconditional.  Parenthood will test our characters and teach us about God’s capacity to love us.   As we begin this new school year, I implore each parent to resolve to love their children unconditionally.  In order to do that we must remind ourselves daily that Christ loves us unconditionally.  We are far from perfection, but God loves us anyway.  We fall short of successfully meeting all of His standards, but God loves us anyway.  Your child will never do everything right, and will often do the exact opposite from what you’ve taught them, but I encourage you to love your child anyway.