Custody in the Face of False Abuse Allegations

Often fathers are involved in custody battles where they are falsely accused of child abuse. False accusations against fathers can and sometimes do affect their rights as far as custody is concerned.  It may be confusing to the father why the mother of their child is making such outrageous allegations. There are no perfect answers when it comes to issues of fathers (or mothers) accused of child abuse.  What motivates one parent to make false accusations is one for the therapists and/or courts to sort out.  However, in high conflict divorces or custody matters, the parent who makes the accusations appear to come out with an advantage over the other parent who is accused of these horrible acts.

If you are a father (or mother) falsely accused of child abuse, physical, sexual, or even neglect, it is important to demonstrate to the court that these accusations are false. Gather as much information as you can and provide witnesses showing your relationship with your child; this will ultimately help in a custody matter.

As a parent falsely accused of child abuse, you might just want the allegations to go away, and resume the old custody routine; or you may believe it is better for the child or children to take custody away from the other parent. Judges sometimes look at false accusations and may restrict custody of the parent making the accusations. Sometimes a judge may change custody, or parenting / visiting time to avoid further false accusations.  In any event, make sure that you do not fall into the same routine of talking bad about the other parent.  This will not help in a custody matter.  A judge can order supervised visitation for an accusation of sexual abuse of the child. Actually a judge can order supervised visitation for any abuse allegation.

Parents who are falsely accused of child abuse may want to consider monetary sanctions against the other parent as well as primary custody and even sole legal custody. There is a real good chance the parent making false accusations is attempting to alienate the child or children as well so make sure you talk to your lawyer, or if you don’t have one, now is a good time to get one.

It is beneficial to demonstrate to the court the parent making the false accusations is doing so willfully and without proof of any child abuse or neglect. If the parent can show to the court that the other parent is making false accusations, the court may indeed sanction the parent making the accusations and if the parent is represented, the attorney represent the parent can be sanctioned. If others are involved in making false allegations, i.e., grandparents, other family members, friends, the court can also sanction those individuals.

Making allegations of abuse against the other parent is also child abuse. Mom (or dad) who tries to take away dad’s (or mom’s) time with the child or children only hurt the child or children.  Parent’s don’t realize that if they make false accusations against the other parent, the parent making that accusation is abusing his or her own child. It is up to both Mom and Dad to protect their child. Mom is no more important than Dad when it comes to the love and relationship with the child or children.

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Keep Infertility From Ruining Your Marriage

It is next to impossible for infertility to not cause stress on a marriage. Let alone the thought on not being able to have children, you also introduce the added stress of the decision making and medical challenges that a couple may face. Unfortunately, few physicians advise couples in regards to the the emotional impact of infertility will most likely have on there relationship. In the grip of infertility, the deterioration of a marriage can happen without the couple realizing it until it reaches a point where saving a relationship is no longer possible.

Most couples take it for granted that they will be able to have children when they choose. However, one in six couples trying to conceive experiences problems. When couples begin trying to have a child, they expect that becoming pregnant may take time but that it will eventually happen. When conception fails to occur in the usual or expected time frame, one or both partners become worried. Typically, it is at this point  the couple decide to seeks the consultation of an infertility doctor to explore their options.

The Step to Getting Treatment

A diagnosis of infertility creates upheavals similar to those associated with a death in the family. Denial, shock, disbelief, anger, grief and depression are common. Some people may rush into treatment without assessing the diagnosis. The impact of infertility differs greatly and is influenced by the couple’s cultural background and the importance a person places on having children. Since infertility is usually unexpected and almost always disappointing, infertility introduces greater unexpected uncertainty into the life and family planning process.

Once a couple has been diagnosed as infertile they are typically referred to a specialist.  In general in cases of infertility about one-third of the time the problem is with the man, about one-third of time the woman, and about one-fifth both partners. About one in ten couples experience unexplained infertility.

While treatment is stressful for both partners, there are qualitative differences in the stress each partner experiences.

Women may feel angry and resentment towards pregnant women. They may also have feelings of guilt, regarding their infertility as punishment for putting a career above motherhood, for using contraception or for previously aborting a pregnancy.

Some women become uncomfortable around children and isolate themselves from family and friends with children. This isolation leaves women without social support networks to help overcome depression and frustration associated with infertility. Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day often become painful reminders of their infertility.

A woman may develop feelings of inadequacy, perceiving her body as dysfunctional. Similarly, a woman’s sense of femininity is often closely associated with fertility. Infertility may therefore have a serious impact on a woman’s sexual identity, leaving her feeling less sexually attractive or asexual. A diagnosis of infertility often leads to feelings of grief associated with the loss of control over reproductive capabilities, plans and goals. The woman may think of herself as barren or inadequate.

Infertility and treatments can lead to a loss in perspective. Women may put everything else in their lives on hold, focusing all their energy and time into getting pregnant. They may delay making changes in everything from their careers to their current housing situation, deciding to wait until after they have ‘had the baby’.

Many of the medical treatments for infertility focus on the woman’s body, which leaves a man feeling helpless and left out of the process. These feelings of exclusion may escalate because of intrusive testing or treatments. If the couple’s infertility is a result of sperm dysfunction, the man may feel inadequate and feel that his sense of masculinity is challenged. The strong societal link between fertility and virility causes many men to keep their infertility a secret, in turn increasing their feeling of isolation.

Infertility strains on a relationship, particularly where the diagnosis relates to only one partner. The infertile partner may fear being left for a fertile person; the fertile partner may blame or feel anger towards their partner. Differing levels of enthusiasm for treatment can occur, particularly in couples where one partner already has children. Agreeing on what fertility tests to perform, which treatment options to pursue and when to stop treatment can all cause conflict. If one partner does not want to begin or continue with treatment, the other partner may feel they are being denied the chance to have a child and become resentful.

Treatment for infertility also frequently interferes with a couple’s sex life. The initial discussions to identify possible fertility problems involve disclosing details regarding sexual activity. Similarly, the loss of privacy associated with tests such as sperm counts and the post-coital test can destroy feelings of intimacy. Timing sex around ovulation can make it feel like a chore rather than something pleasurable.

Family, Friends and Support

Family and friends can make the situation worse. Families, in particular prospective grandparents, may place added pressure on people by announcing their expectations for grandchildren. Questions by in-laws can feel intrusive and be stressful. Friends may seem unsympathetic and offer unhelpful and thoughtless suggestions. Friends and family with children may avoid announcing their own pregnancies.

Employers may not fully understand the issue of infertility and therefore be unsupportive. It can be difficult to arrange time off work for those undergoing diagnostic tests or pursuing treatment. In addition, employees may not feel comfortable revealing to their employer why they need the time off.


Infertility treatment can be extremely expensive. Often times, most if not all, is not covered under medical insurance and the taxing financial burden on the couple can be next to impossible to substantiate or afford. The decision to pursue or continue is not easy. Couples can struggle to  agree on how much they are willing to sacrifice financially and/or how long they want to continue the process. Saying on the same page is no easy task.

Personality Changes

Infertility treatment can take a physical toll on a woman and is often quite painful. Hormonal changes that occur will almost always cause severe moodiness. The longer treatment continues without a sign of success, the greater the level disappointment, anxiety, and a sense of failure tends to occur.

It is vital for couples to focus on other things besides procreation. Regular date nights and romantic weekends can balance the often intense process of trying to have a child. It’s also a good idea to decide on a time line for pursuing treatment.

Although infertility can demolish a marriage relationship, some couples also report that going through the experience has made their relationship stronger.

Considering Adoption

The couple should be ready fro the fact that treatment may not work or be an option after all.  The most common alternative is adoption, becoming more involved in the lives of the children that surrounding themselves, like nieces and nephews, or deciding not to have children at all. Making peace with infertility can be very demanding.

Adoption remedies childlessness, not infertility, but some couples accept it as a next step. But for others it is not. They yearn to see their genes in the next generation and they want pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. They want some degree of control over their child’s intrauterine environment and genetic makeup. For them, parenthood is more than simply parenting; in short, they simply want what comes so easy for most people.

In addition, some infertile couples find satisfaction in what is called “social parenting,” which crosses adoption with childfree living. These childless people become very involved with the children around them: nieces, nephews, godchildren, or friends’ children. The children love their social parents, who become special grown-ups and influence their developing values and skills even as the children can confide in them. The parents love these routines because they get a break from their kids, and social parents benefit enormously because they love and are loved by the children. A child who is loved always finds room in this or her heart to love to love one more person.



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Understanding Father’s Rights in Divorce

What is called “fathers’ rights” is movement in the service of the idea that custody decisions should not discriminate against fathers. Support groups, including Fathers for Equal Rights in Miami and Fathers Are Forever in California, provide support for fathers who feel unfairly treated by the legal system.

The sparks start to fly when the custodial mother decides to move with the children, especially an extended distance from the non-custodial father. ??Also keep in mine that the courts generally awards at least physical custody of children to the mother unless is is proven in court that she is not capable. The problems really begin to occur when she needs or wants to relocate. With or without the approval of the court, the children now live a greater distance from the noncustodial father and it instantly increases the difficulties of nurturing or maintaining a relationship with the child. Under these circumstances, desperate fathers may kidnap children, and divorced parents start playing the game of accusing each other of causing parental alienation.

Many scholars believe that the current system of child support payments often leads mothers to deny fathers access to their children until they have paid what they owe, thus souring the relationship between all three. Indeed, the study found that fathers who did not visit their kids gave only about half as much in-kind support as those who spent at least 10 hours a month with them.

How much involvement each parent has had is the most critical factor in determining both the amount of visitation that each parent will have as well as the amount of child support he or she will be obligated to pay. It is uncommon for household duties to be split 50-50, Even in dual income households, one spouse typically bears a disproportionate level of the parenting responsibilities.

The courts do not arbitrarily favor mothers over fathers. The spouse who is the primary parental figure remains that after the divorce. This is the case regardless of the gender of the primary custodial parent.

The court seeks to maintain what is closest to continuity for the children. ?? The primary thing a court will look at is consider is whether or not the  father is as involved in the children’s lives and takes a vested interest on a daily basis in parenting by taking the children to school events,, extra curricular activities doctor visits and other daily routine events.

A divorcing parent should also do all he or she can to maintain a strong and meaningful  relationship with the child(ren). If one does not focus and nurture the relationship, a child will often end up being treated like a piece of property. Fighting over children should never be negotiated along with property: when it comes to determining custody, visitation and child support, the primary focus should be to build the most effective co-parenting relationship possible as children are not ever to be co.

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Child Informed Mediation

Divorce or separation annually buffets and bruises more than one million children in the United States, so many parents turn to interventions such as family mediation to mitigate the damage. Family mediation has been widely promoted as a better alternative to litigation.

Child Focused (CF) and Child Informed (CI) mediation routines appear to improve the benefits of mediation, but CI intervention appears to offer the most positive mediation outcomes, according a 2013 article in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law by five professors at Indiana University in Bloomington.

While some family dispute resolution practitioners adopt a CF approach in every mediation because they want to understand the unique needs of the children and encourage parents to stay focused on reaching agreements in the “best interests of the children,” in recent years practitioners have shifted from CF practice to CI regimes. CI provides a mechanism for children to have a voice in the mediation process, without needing to be present in the room and without having to make any decisions.

In Australia Dr. Jennifer McIntosh is a leading advocate of the CI practice. Dr. McIntosh describes the process as one where parents, with assistance, “focus clearly on their children’s needs amidst the emotional debris of the ongoing disputes.”

CI practice involves a child consultant spending time with the children in a separate session outside of the mediation. If more than one child is involved, the children can be seen together initially and then separately if they wish. This session is a confidential and supportive session, with a consultant or counselor or child practitioner.

In a CI regime, each child, who must be of school age, speaks with the child consultant independently and in neutral environment. The child consultant spends time drawing, playing and talking with the child who is never in a position of being pressured to answer any given question or to answer a question in a particular way. The child is not asked to make decisions or to experience the feeling of having to choose between his or her parents. He or she talks about and/or shows “what it’s like to be me, in my family, at this point in time.” Special care is taken to provide an environment that feels safe and welcoming.

The child shares his or her thoughts and feelings about the separation and living arrangements. Children generally don’t want to hurt one or both parents by sharing how they really feel, so the presence of a child consultant provides the space for them to speak openly. The child consultant reports back the child’s experience of the separation and conflict, and the child’s expressed wishes and unspoken developmental needs. The child specialist may even “shadow” the child as the youngster moves through some of his or her daily activities and interactions with parents and others. This permits useful empirical information to be gathered so that discussions about his or her best interests are tied to the child’s reality as opposed to the picture that one or both parents sometimes assume to be true. A fair report of the child’s journey enhances outcomes and softens parental reactivity and gives perspective that otherwise may be absent. The child consultant respects any concerns that the children have about reporting back sensitive matters.

The consultant gives the parents feedback, and the parents make informed decisions about parenting arrangements, communication styles, schooling and a whole range of other issues that may be brought to the table. In this regime, parents can stand down from their battle stations to listen and learn what they need to know to make informed decisions about parenting and co-parenting. The entire process shifts in productive and positive ways.

Children add a heightened level of emotional complexity to a separation or divorce. With CI in place, parents can make a transition from warring couples about their children’s future to two people who are able to be amicable for the sake of their children. The more they practice the easier, it becomes. In essence they fake it until they make it.

CI mediation can support parents’ efforts to actively consider the unique needs of each of their children, and it can facilitate a parenting agreement that preserves significant relationships and supports children’s psychological adjustment to the separation. Parents exit the dispute resolution forum on higher rather than diminished ground.

Parent can broach CI mediation with their children by explaining that Mom and Dad have been seeing a mediator to help make some decisions about the future, such as schooling, living arrangements and finances. Parents explain that they have chosen this path because each wants the best for the children and that working with the mediator helps make the best possible decisions for everyone in the family.

The parent can explain that when they talk with the child consultant they can let the consultant know if there is anything they are talking about that they want to be kept private. They can just enjoy playing games and chatting with the child consultant about whatever they are thinking.

This type of mediation ensures that the children really are a focal point for conflict resolution strategies. Parents accurately identify and focus upon kids needs, at what is also for them this most difficult of times, by maintaining their indirect presence in the mediation room. It allows the parties to actually test workable co-parenting solutions, and so to modify their conduct accordingly.

Separating couples with children should seek the assistance of a mediator because research shows the repercussions of ongoing conflict can sometimes last a lifetime, so resolving the situation as peacefully and quickly as possible is so important.

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Why Second Marriages Tend to Fail

Statistics suggest that a second (or even the third) marriage does not pay off with a ticket to the promised land of marital happiness. Unrealistic expectations of a blended family break up many second and third marriages. Marriages freighted with the belief that the blended family will love have been called “the instant family myth.” And from it are a number of suggestions and corollaries that invite despair, including, but not limited to, the notion that a blended family will be like a nuclear family, with stepchildren who love, respect and/or obey their new Mom or Dad.

Second and even third marriages have become commonplace. According to the Center For Disease Control estimates, 75 percent of women and 80 percent of men who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years.

People walking down the aisle a second time typically imagine their first, failed union gives them the experience and wisdom to take a second chance on marital happiness. This conventional wisdom, like so much conventional wisdom, is wrong.

Skip Burzumato, assistant director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and psychiatrist Mark Banschick, author of The Intelligent Divorce, estimate that approximately two-thirds of second marriages end in divorce. Banschick says the divorce rate for third marriages is 73 percent.

That second stroll down the aisle promises to be an uphill climb because second marriages come loaded with the baggage that stresses the newly wed couple. “The major problems reported by remarried folks who get divorced are children from prior relationships and money,” says Professor Larry Ganong, a board member of the Council of Contemporary Families.

First marriages typically have time to solidify before children arrive, but second marriages often have to hit the ground running with children already there, he says. “A new step-parent, to most children, is the devil personified. When you try to blend families, it is not the Brady Bunch. Children will fight over turf. They want their parents,” says Henry Gornbein, a family law expert in high profile divorces and mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law.

“Remarried families are pretty complicated systems,” Ganong says. “There may be child support money from previous marriages or relationships, there may be child support money going out. You’ve got kids coming in and out from prior unions. Oftentimes the couples are more diverse — there are bigger age differences, bigger differences in backgrounds.”

Grown stepchildren are no guarantee of escape from complications of children from a previous marriage, Ganong says, particularly in this new economy where multigenerational households are on the rise. “When we’re doing educational programs or workshops, I tell people if you remarry someone with kids — I don’t care how old the kids are, they can be 35 — I just tell them, count on those kids living with you at some point. Because they often do.”

In a darkly comic way, moreover, practice makes perfect when it comes to divorce. “Once you’ve already been divorced, it can be easier to get divorced once again,” Burzumato says. “If you have a scarlet letter, no one’s going to notice if you pin it back on. So whatever stigma there is anymore in our culture — maybe in one’s family or religious community — that’s already gone.” Also, he points out, remarried people may notice the signs of an impending divorce sooner, sometimes leading them to end the marriage rather than try to salvage the relationship. “People vow that they will never divorce again, but the reality is it is easier once you have done it,” says Gornbein.

In the past, women needed men for financial support, notes social historian Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage and The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, but now they no longer need to rely on a man for financial support, enabling them to leave unsatisfactory marriages. Men, on the other hand, needed women to maintain the home and found it easier to get raises and promotions if they were married. In addition, the absence of divorce laws made it difficult to leave bad marriages.

Despite the high divorce rates for second and third marriages, hope springs eternal. Statistics don’t stop most people, sooner or later, from taking a grab at the golden ring of love and remarriage.

The couple has a better chance of making it if they take a time to get to know each other rather than rushing into a new marriage on the rebound from a failed one, Coontz says.

“Research suggests that divorce is much more likely in a second marriage if the relationship is less than a year old,” psychologist Kalman Heller writes in a recent article on Divorced men remarry sooner than women, he says, because they “are often driven by an extreme discomfort with being alone … they are typically seduced into thinking they are in love with someone who is willing to listen to their pain and make them feel important again.”

For older people considering remarriage, Ganong stresses the importance of getting legal advice before taking the plunge. “I would talk to an attorney to do some estate planning,” he said, noting that in many states property goes to the spouse in the event of death, often causing stepchildren to lose family heirlooms. For remarried people who have young children, Burzumato recommends seeking the help of a family counselor to aid with stepfamily issues.

Soul searching about the failed marriage is imperative. Honestly recognizing why the first marriage didn’t work is an important step couples take to prevent a second marital failure. When NASA shoots up a rocket that explodes, the agency tries to learn why before it sends up another rocket. “[Couples] need to have some good conversations with each other — and themselves — about what they contributed to the failure of their first marriage and what they saw as problems in their first partner that they would like to avoid the second time around. Re-evaluating, stepping away from the anger, blame, disappointment and self-righteousness that often come with the first emotional responses to divorce. They have to analyze what they need to do differently this time if they want to succeed,” Coontz says.


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Recipe For a Happy Marriage

Research shows most people’s happiness eventually returns to their natural baseline, even after very positive events like a wedding or the birth of child. Happiness lies within the individual. Expecting a spouse to change that forever is unrealistic and unfair. What is surprising is that research shows happiness is relatively stable. A major life event (like marriage or the birth of a child) may offer a short-term happiness boost, but studies suggest most people return to their own personal happiness set point. For example, a person who ranks his level of happiness as a 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, lives at that level most of the time, and the events in his or her life won’t change that much or permanently. He or she will pretty much be a 7.5 happy person all his or her life.

A study published in 2012 in the Journal of Research in Personality reports “that while married people are not necessarily happier than they were when they were single, marriage ‘appears to protect against normal declines in happiness during adulthood that happen over time.'” Regardless of the study, marriage alone cannot bring happiness. Happiness both as an individual and as a married partner must come from within a person. Being married augments happiness and health, but marriage is not and should not be the primary source of a person’s happiness.

What all this means is, Don’t Expect Your Spouse To Make You Happy.

“… Get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won’t. Once the initial high wears off, you’ll just be you, except with twice as much laundry,” says Tracy McMillan, who wrote “Why You’re Not Married.”

Plainly some marriages are doomed, some from the start. A dysfunctional marriage warrants professional counseling so the victim spouse can make an informed and rational decision as to whether or not to go on. Infidelity and abuse may be very good reasons for ending a marriage, but the search for happiness as an objective goal seems to end in a generalized unhappiness that may be wrongly attributed to a spouse.

New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope identifies a realistic expectation of happiness as one of the seven key considerations for a happy marriage in her book, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. Celebration of good news, more positive interactions than negative ones, high standards, close family ties, steady romantic contact — all are important.

But realistic expectations of life happiness, both as an individual; and as a married couple, may be the ball bearing upon which a happy marriage turns.

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Determining Parentage in Same Sex Marriage

Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015  Supreme Court case in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that same-sex couples the right to marry, leaves in its wake issues regarding the parentage of children of these marriages.

With the recognition of same-sex marriage, issues of paternity and parentage become more complex, particularly since states also consider the parentage of children born from donor insemination and surrogacy.

The question of identification of a child’s legal parents can become central to the lives of same-sex partners raising children.

Each state has its own rules establishing who is and who is not a parent. In Pennsylvania, as in many states, there is an automatic presumption that both partners in a same-sex marriage are legal parents. When paternity issues are raised regarding same-sex parents, the court applies the legal fiction known as the doctrine of the presumption of paternity. Under this doctrine, ‘the presumption of paternity embodies the fiction that regardless of biology, the married people to whom the child was born are the parents.” That is, same-sex spouses are automatically considered legal parents with equal rights and responsibilities.

The legal parent is a person who has the right to live with a child and decide issues about the child’s health, education, and well being. Legal parents must care for and support the child financially. Quite a few states have adopted a set of laws called the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) to govern parentage. In general, when a married heterosexual couple has a child or adopts a child together, both spouses are automatically considered legal parents with equal rights and responsibilities. And when an unmarried heterosexual couple has a child together, and the father acknowledges paternity at birth, both partners are legal parents. In either of these situations, if the adults end their relationship, both parents have rights to custody and visitation with their children.

Conclusive evidence of paternity in heterosexual relationships can be established when the father signs an acknowledgement of paternity, but there is no parallel document such as an acknowledgement of maternity in same-sex marriages. Simply listing the non birth mother on the birth certificate is not sufficient. Currently, for same-sex female parents, a second-parent adoption is the only method for protecting against any challenges to the non birth mother’s parentage that may arise. Pennsylvania has allowed same-sex second-parent adoption since 2002, per In re Adoption of R.B.F., 803 A.2d 1195 (Pa. 2002).

Unfortunately, however, the same rules don’t always apply to same-sex couples. In most of the marriage equality and marriage-equivalent states, the partners are treated like married spouses and both are considered parents of a child born during the marriage or registered partnership. However, because these rules apply to children “born” into the relationship, they benefit only lesbian couples in which one partner gives birth to a child while she is domestically partnered or married. The nonbiological parent’s name can go on the birth certificate immediately, making the parentage presumption one of the most valuable benefits of getting married or legally partnered.

In states that don’t have marriage or marriage-equivalent relationships, there is no automatic presumption that both partners in a same-sex couple are legal parents. This means that in many cases, only one person has parental rights unless the partners take some legal step, like an adoption, to establish rights for the second parent — the parent without automatic legal rights. In lesbian couples, the legal parent is most commonly the partner who gave birth, and the nonbiological parent is the second parent. When a gay male couple uses a surrogate to carry a child that is biologically related only to one partner, the biological father will use a legal procedure to establish his rights, but unless his partner is included in that proceeding, the partner is the second parent.

And for couples of either sex when one partner adopts as a single person, the other partner is a second parent.

The relationships between nonlegal second parents and their children are extremely vulnerable until the parents take steps to establish a legal relationship. If they fail to do so, the second parent may not be able to establish custody or seek visitation if the parents separate. If you live in a state that allows second-parent adoption, do it. It’s generally not a very complicated process, and it shouldn’t be extremely expensive. Whatever it costs, it’s worth the security of knowing that your legal status reflects your reality — and your child’s. You may also qualify for an adoption tax credit that provides a tax break for adoption expenses.

Some states don’t allow adoptions but do have other ways of establishing parentage, using either the UPA or procedures that have been established specifically for that state. However if you can make it happen, make it happen.

The fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In the ruling the court held that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.

The Obergefell decision has left U.S. citizens more divided than ever on the question of gay marriage, after the court itself showed a deep divide on the issue. In an unprecedented move, the four opposing justices each published an independent dissent, leaving a mine of legal reasoning contrary to the majority opinion.


If you live in a state that doesn’t allow same-sex adoptions or any equivalent procedure, there isn’t a reliable legal solution. In that case it’s important that at a minimum you and your partner sign a coparenting agreement that declares in no uncertain terms that you are both parents and should be considered so legally. Not every court will defer to such a document, but it may make a difference (and has in recent court cases).

In addition to the coparenting agreement, the legal parent should sign a will that grants custody to the second parent in the event of the legal parent’s death, as well as a guardianship nomination that names the second parent as guardian in the event of the legal parent’s incapacity. The legal parent should also authorize the second parent to obtain medical care for the child. Finally, both of you should make sure to tell family, friends, caregivers, teachers, and your pediatrician that you consider yourselves equal parents and you want to be treated that way. Along with your written coparenting agreement and the other documents you’ve prepared, this could serve as evidence in a later court case.


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Negotiating a House Buyout at Divorce

When divorcing couples want to minimize the impact on small children, one spouse very often buys out the other spouse and keeps the family house in a divorce.

In this routine, the custodial parent buys out the noncustodial parent so that the children can stay in the house. The regime provides continuity and stability for the kids. Moreover, the divorcing spouses are not at the mercy of the market.

In a buyout, an appraiser determines the fair market value of the family house because the transfer does not involve a real estate agent. A real estate agent, however, can provide information about recent sale prices in the neighborhood for comparable houses. These are often called “comps” (for comparable). Comparable houses are not always the best way to determine the fair market value of a house, nor is an online estimate (such as or

An appraisal is expensive, costing about $300 to $500 for a formal appraisal and report. If spouses disagree about the value, a formal appraisal is a good way to settle the question. If the appraisal doesn’t work, the parties must ask a judge to decide the value of the home. The judge often relies on the appraiser’s report, or if there are two appraisals, a judge may average of the two.

However, in any buyout, each side faces risks. The selling spouse may lose out on future appreciation of the house; the buying spouse runs the risk that the housing market may slide.

Moreover, a buyout can also be a financial stretch for the buying spouse because a house is a barren asset that pays nothing until it is sold, and carries costs (taxes and maintenance) regardless of any appreciation.

As a rule, the spouses negotiate the terms and condition of the buyout as part of the divorce settlement agreement. Commonly, the buying spouse either pays money to the selling spouse by refinancing the house with a new mortgage loan. Sometimes the buyer trades off other marital property worth as much as the selling spouse’s share of the house. For example, the custodial mother might keep the house in exchange for her share of marital investments and her husband’s pension. Sometimes a buyout can happen over time.

The spouses agree on the fair market value for purposes of a buyout, they may decide to adjust it, for any of a variety of reasons. Here are a few common adjustments:

> Broker’s fee. Sometimes the spouse deducts the standard broker’s fee from the buy out price because the seller may incur these fees later when the house is finally sold on the market.

Some states prohibit this, which means that the buyer pays all the closing costs, including the entire broker’s fee, whenever the property is sold.

> Deferred maintenance. The cost of any deferred maintenance can be leveraged in negotiating a buyout price. For example, the buying spouse may ask the selling spouse to reduce the price to pay for work on the house put off during the marriage, or the selling spouse who owes money as part of the settlement may lower the price to even out the property division.

> Spousal support. The spouses may use the price to negotiate reduction in spousal support; for example, the selling spouse may lower the buyout price to avoid paying spousal support. If the spouse so-called supported spouse is buying out the paying spouse’s share of the house in order to stay there with the kids, he or she might agree to give up spousal support if the paying spouse sells his or her interest for a lower-than-market-value price. This routine, however, may negate the tax advantages paying alimony.

> Refinancing. In most cases, a buyout goes hand in hand with a refinancing of the mortgage loan on the house. Usually, the buying spouse needs a new mortgage loan in his or her name alone. The buying spouse takes out a loan to pay off the previous loan and pay the selling spouse what’s owed for the buyout. For example, the couple has a mortgage loan with a principal balance of $100,000 and $100,000 in equity. This requires a new mortgage of at least $150,000 — $100,000 to pay off the original loan, and $50,000 cash (half of the amount of equity) to seller spouse. The transaction moves like a sale to a third party, with the seller spouse signing a deed transferring ownership of the property to the buyer spouse, and an escrow company or an attorney taking care of the paperwork and transfers of funds.

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A Big Rock Means a Rocky Marriage

Diamonds are forever, but a marriage that starts with a lavish ceremony and expensive engagement ring is less likely to succeed.

The more spent on an engagement ring and wedding ceremony, the shorter the marriage, according to a September 2014 study by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, economics professors at Emory University in Atlanta. They examined the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from a survey of over 3,000 people in the United States. Their study, A Diamond Is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration, has since been featured on CNN, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and 11 Alive.

The Emory researchers gathered details such as marriage duration, length of time dating, honeymoon, engagement ring expenses, wedding attendance, total wedding expenses and age at marriage.

They found that those who spent a lot on their wedding were more likely to report that debt from wedding expenses caused stress in their marriage. “Will the psychological lift I get from this offset the financial burden of paying for it?” cautions Joe Duran, chief executive officer of financial advisor United Capital in Newport Beach, Calif. “We all are romantics at heart, but if we don’t establish good habits at the beginning of a relationship, we probably won’t apply them later either, thereby ensuring no happily ever after.”

Brides, in particular, are vulnerable to divorce after expensive marriages. In fact, brides who spend $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5 times more likely to end up divorced than their frugal counterparts who spent less than half that amount.

“In other words, Bridezilla equals Divorcezilla,” Mialon says. “Don’t let advertisers fool you into spending your life savings on your wedding.”

Wedding industry revenues are expected to exceed $50 billion in the United States this year, according to research firm IBISWorld. “The wedding industry has grown substantially throughout the 20th century in part due to the rise of consumerism and industry efforts to commodity love and romance,” the Emory report found. Bridal magazines market “the necessity of a lavish wedding for a fairy tale marriage.” Spending more on an engagement ring — the average price being roughly around $2,500, according to the report — is also linked to shorter marriages.

High rollers marry themselves into the poorhouse.

Francis and Mialon blame the wedding industry for fueling the notion that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and the wedding leads to a successful, committed marriage.“[P]rior to World War II, in Western countries, only 10 percent of engagement rings contained a diamond. By the end of the century, about 80 percent did [and] in 2012, total expenditures on diamond rings were roughly $7 billion in the United States.”

Using the Emory research, Randal Olson, a fourth-year computer science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University, crunched the data this way: Couples who spend $20,000 on their wedding (excluding the cost of the ring) are 46 percent more likely than average to get divorced; that risk falls to 29 percent higher than average for those who spend $10,000 to $20,000. Couples who spend between $1,000 and $5,000 are 18 percent less likely than average to get divorced and those who spend less than $1,000 are 53 percent less likely to get divorced.

The financial burden of a lavish and expensive wedding can tear the marriage apart.

Big weddings suggest that a couple is marrying for the wrong reasons. For instance, men are 1.5 times more likely to end up divorced when they care most about their partner’s looks; women are 1.6 times more likely to end up divorced when they care most about their partner’s wealth.

However, having a lot of family and friends may help: Couples who have 200-plus guests at their wedding are 92 percent less likely than average to get divorced, while those with less than 10 guests are 35 percent more likely than average to get divorced. One solution: the researchers note that you’re 39% less likely to get divorced if the spouses dated 3-plus years before getting married.

Diamonds may be forever, but a bigger diamond doesn’t necessarily mean a longer marriage. College sophomore Rachel Wang found the study “really interesting, but it doesn’t really surprise me.”

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When Marriages Begin As Affairs

Nine defects flaw a second marriage that begins as an affair, according to Dr. Frank Pittman, who is the author of Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy. And a second marriage that begins with infidelity probably will be heading for the rocks within two years, according to Elizabeth Landers, who writes about marriage and family.

The very elements that come together to make an affair exciting and intoxicating are the fuel that consumes the relationship when it becomes a marriage. Such marriages begin on weak foundations that collapse under the strain of everyday life. When the affair is running hot, the partners are blinded to inevitability that the romance consumes itself, and they nearly always imagine that they are the exceptions to an established pattern of human affairs.

Some affairs end in successful relationships endure as healthy long-term marriages that last, but according to experts, these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

First of all, the probability of affairs ending in marriages is not very high — between three and five percent, and many join the 75 percent of second marriages that fail, a rate half again as high as first marriages. While fewer than 25 percent of cheaters leave a marriage for an affair partner, according to one source, most of those relationships are statistically extremely unlikely to endure.

Dr. Frank Pittman, the noted psychiatrist and author, and many others have conjectured about why almost all affairs falter and fail to produce lasting and healthy relationships. Most experts point to several reasons why affairs perish.

Affairs consume energy because they are taboo and must be kept secret. They survive more on what each partner gets than what each invests in the relationship.

Because of the dynamics of a forbidden relationship, one or both partners comes to realize he or she lost much more than he or she now shares. “As relates to sacrifice, often one will discover (or feel) that his or her sacrifice was much greater than what the other person had to sacrifice, and this can lead to resentment and disillusionment.” Paradoxically, sacrifice sometime feeds the relationship until there is nothing left to feed the relationship.

And the most obvious element is that marriage begun on a foundation of betrayal and lies, as is an affair, cannot easily become one of trust and loyalty, as is marriage.

Dr. Pittman’s nine defects in the dynamics of affairs that become marriages chart the trajectory of love as it arcs from a forbidden romance to an established marriage to a marital breakup.

These nine defects include:

  1. While still married to others, the affair partners become immersed in “stimulating unreality,” but the second marriage illuminates reality. “Only after their marriage did the divorce become real enough to see that it was a horrible mistake.  They were so caught up in the infatuation that they never got around to figuring out if what they were doing was sane.”
  2. The cheaters who wrecked a family (or two) and inflicted much pain on innocent people may feel no or little guilt during the affair but become overwhelmed with guilt after they marry.
  3. Divorces drain both financially and emotionally.  After affair partners marry, the new couple may feel a disparity in what had to be sacrificed to bring them together.
  4. Unfaithful couples who marry may believe that the life after the marriage will be as good as life during the affair, and that “[t]he greater the sacrifices, the greater the expectations for the new marriage.”  In short, “[t]he more people enjoy the battles involved in wrecking and escaping marriages, the less they are likely to enjoy the business as usual of the new marriage.”
  5. The affair partners, who were unfaithful, develop a distrust of marriage and for the affair partner who is now a spouse. A marriage that begins on an untruth cannot have a trusting foundation.
  6. During the affair and the divorce, the unfaithful couple isolates and insulate themselves, and they retreat to a private little world “protected from the devastation that they have created, safe from anyone who tries to pull them apart.” In this regime, memories or even mention of the betrayed spouse can be difficult. Later, the now married couple may long to reconnect with these people; however, “[e]veryone involved is hurt by the betrayal and not as forgiving as they have expected. They often find that they only have each other and that can be very lonely.”
  7. When the romance fades, as it does in most marriages, romantics do not understand that this is part of the growth of the marriage, and they do not know how to nurture “a deeper more meaningful relationship”; rather, “they believe that they have just fallen out of love.”
  8. During the affair and the divorce the affair couple convinces each other that the defective marriage is the fault of the betrayed spouse.  To acknowledge otherwise, now that the remarriage has taken place, seems a betrayal of “the rescue fantasies that fed the affair in the first place.”
  9. The absence of a shared history that nurtures a comforting familiarity to relationships that begin earlier in life makes talking about the past difficult. An affair that wrecked a first marriage makes it painful and embarrassing for both spouses to discuss the past because it may promote jealousy and insecurity.  Affair partners who marry do not want to hear the good qualities of the previous marriage and spouses, nor about any good times the former partners had.  Trying to start over can be lonely and disheartening.
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