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Top 10 Legal Issues for Single Moms

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

There are many single moms out there, including glitzy and glamorous ones. In fact, more than one-third of all American moms -- 36% -- were unmarried in 2011, according to a Census Bureau report released last week. For young moms 20 to 24, more than 60% were unmarried.

Aside from juggling work, child-rearing, and a personal life (that's well-deserved!), there are a variety of legal issues that single moms are likely to face.

Here are the Top 10 legal issues for single moms to keep in mind:

  1. Physical custody. Physical custody determines where a child will live. It's based on what's best for the child, and can include factors such as school location. A court can grant sole or joint physical custody.
  2. Legal custody. Many people don't realize that it's not physical custody, but legal custody that determines who gets a say in making decisions for a child. Courts generally like to give parents joint legal custody, so both parents can throw in their two cents on Junior's schooling, religious instruction, medical care, and beyond. But you can contest joint legal custody in court.
  3. Child support. Child support is a huge issue. Whether you're trying to collect support or owe support, it's important to know what your rights and responsibilities are.
  4. Coparenting plans. If you're a single parent who wants to coparent with the other parent, a parenting plan can help. It can help you both figure out how to get along. It establishes communication, creates a set schedule, and functions as a way to build trust with your former flame.
  5. Paternity. Getting a biological father legally recognized is key to gaining child custody, child support, inheritance, medical history access, and a host of other legal rights.
  6. Visitation. If one parent has physical custody, the other parent can often get the right to visit the child. If there are safety concerns, the parent who has physical custody can request supervised visitation, so that the other parent isn't left alone with the kid.
  7. International disputes. With the rise of online dating, many people are now facing international custody disputes. International custody disputes can get pretty tricky because they often involve two sets of laws.
  8. Child care. SIngle parents often work long hours and the last thing they need is to worry about how the kiddies are doing. Look for a licensed and quailified child care provider who can give your kids a fun, safe and clean environment. Here's a link to a handy checklist to find a good child-care provider near you.
  9. Parental alienation syndrome. When you're a single parent, you might feel like you're always doing something wrong. Don't take your kid's resentment too personally. Sometimes, during a child custody dispute, a child can reject one parent because of the other parent's bad-mouthing. The solution? Both parents need to be civil and communicate.
  10. Stability and routine. At the core of all of the legal tips above is the need to give a child a stable, nurturing environment. Child neglect rears its head in a variety of ways. The guiding principle in family law is the best interests of the child. After a long day at work, it's not a bad rule to bring home to the dinner table, too.

Sorting out your life as a single mom can be difficult -- emotionally and legally. Let an experienced family law attorney help.

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