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5 Legal Issues Single Parents Commonly Face

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

March 21st is National Single Parents' Day, an observance that began over 30 years ago with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan.

While raising a child isn't easy, dealing with legal issues as a single parent can make your life even more challenging. But even though you can deal with many of legal issues on your own, you don't always have to go it alone.

Here are five legal issues that single parents commonly face, and some resources that can help:

  1. Child custody. Custody can include both physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines where a child will live and is usually determined by where the kid goes to school and whether or not a court can grant sole or joint physical custody. On the other hand, legal custody determines who gets to make decisions for the child, including medical care or religious instruction. For a concise overview of this topic, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Child Custody.
  2. Child support. Whether you're paying or collecting child support, this is often a major legal issue for single parents. It's important to remember that child support amounts aren't set in stone and can be modified according to your new income or special needs of your child. FindLaw's free Guide to Getting Child Support Payments provides a summary of what you need to know.
  3. Rebellious teens. Even if your teenagers are driving you crazy, it's not the best idea to kick them out of your house and make them fend for themselves -- unless they are legally emancipated. Often, kicking out an underage child who isn't emancipated and refusing to support that child can be considered child abandonment and can lead to criminal charges.
  4. Adoption. While states usually don't prohibit an unmarried person from adopting a child, adoption agencies may have different policies when it comes to single parents. In fact, some agencies may prohibit single parents from adopting altogether.
  5. Housing discrimination. Under the Fair Housing Act, it's illegal to deny housing to people based on familial composition, the presence of children, or gender stereotypes. So landlords can't refuse to rent you a house solely based on the fact that you're a single parent or that your kids will be living there with you -- even though some may try.

Of course these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legal issues facing single parents. If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed, let an experienced family attorney help you figure out the best solution for you and your family.

Editor's Note, March 15, 2016: This post was first published in March 2014. It has since been updated.

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