It isn’t unusual for teachers, counselors, and other school officials – not to mention doctors, and even parents themselves – to find the legal jargon that describes custody rights confusing.”
Why wrestle with the legal-speak? Worrying about wording of a Parenting Plan may not seem important, Reineke notes, until a parent tries to get copies of a child’s school records. Or medical records. Or until he or she arrives to pick up the child from school, childcare, or extracurricular activities, and isn’t named on the pick up list.
Beth Reineke, whose practice specializes in family law, regularly presents seminars on divorce, parental rights, and other legal issues today’s new-age families face. “Legal terms can be confusing,” she acknowledges. “Because many single parents don’t have legal representation, they often don’t know their rights.” To help parents gain a better understanding of child custody, she has created “A Single Parent’s Bill of Rights.”
A Single Parent’s Bill of Rights
(1) You have the right to reasonable telephone contact with your child when he/she is in the care of the other parent.
(2) You have the right to speak with your child privately and to expect the other parent not to eavesdrop on phone calls or read correspondence and e-mail between you and your child.
(3) You have the right to notice of all school functions and extra curricular activities and to participate in these activities.
(4) You have the right to participate in the decision of whom will be providing dare care and after school care for your child. You have the right to the name, address, and phone numbers of all babysitters and care providers for your child and to meet and speak with these individuals.
(5) You have the right to reasonable notice when your child has been sick or injured.
(6) You have the right to the name, address and telephone number of all physicians providing care to your child. You have the right to meet with the physician, to copies of your child’s records, and to participate in all decisions regarding non-emergency medical care.
(7) You have the right to receive prior notice of and to participate in the decision to take your child to a psychologist or a licensed mental health worker. This includes the right to the name address and phone number of the counselor and copies of the counselors curriculum vitae and any other information relevant to the counselor’s credentials.
(8) You have the right to be on the emergency pick up list for schools, childcare, and extracurricular activities.
(9) You have the right to copies of your child’s school records, medical records, and in most cases, mental health records.
(10) You have a right to an itinerary whenever the other parent will be visiting with the child away from their home. This includes dates of departure and return, travel, hotel and flight information, the names, address and telephone numbers of persons who will be traveling with your child, and phone numbers where your child may be reached during their trip.
(11) You have the right to expect the other parent not to discuss your disputes with your child, or in front of your child.
(12) You have the right to expect the other parent to encourage the child to love you, visit you, telephone you, and not to speak badly of you in the presence of the child.
(13) You have the right to expect the child and the other parent to be consistently on time for visitation drop offs and pick ups and to a phone call when the other parent is going to be late.
(14) You have the right to speak with (or at least correspond or e-mail) the other parent directly regarding your parental rights and visitation scheduling matters. The child or others should not be used as messengers.
(15) You have the right to expect the other parent to be reasonably flexible with the visitation schedule upon reasonable notice for special events.
About the Author
Attorney Beth Reineke is a Supreme Court Certified Mediator. She has received additional training as an arbitrator and as a Parent Coordinator for high conflict custody litigation. Attorney Reineke devotes herself full time to mediating and assisting families to resolve their differences without litigation.
(Note: The foregoing article was prepared as a summary and is not intended to be a complete list of parental rights. In addition, rights can vary based on individual situations and court orders. Attorney Reineke encourages single parents who believe their rights have been violated to discuss their situation with a family law attorney. This article is not intended for use in the absence of consultation with a family law attorney regarding the intricacies of your specific case. For free referral to a family law attorney, call the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Attorney Referral Service at (813) 221-7780.)