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Novi Child Custody AttorneyThe month of October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Domestic violence is defined as the “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.” More than 10 million adults experience domestic violence each year. On a typical day, local domestic violence hotlines receive approximately more than 19,000 calls. This comes out to 13 calls per minute. Here in Michigan, it is estimated more than 35 percent of women and 25 percent of men will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. When it comes to domestic violence, it is not only the adult who is the victim, but any children who live in the home are also victimized. 

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The above statistics show just what a common issue domestic violence is for families across the country. Not only does the violence affect the victim, but it also has a harmful impact on children who witness the abuse. It is estimated that children witness 70 to 80 percent of all domestic violence assaults that occur.

Studies have shown that children who are exposed to domestic violence suffer great emotional harm. They often suffer excessive sadness or worry, and fear of abandonment or harm. Many children lose their ability to have empathy for others and/or they may feel socially isolated.

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Novi Adoption LawyersCountless studies show that children thrive with the love and support of two parents. However, sometimes, those parents are not related to the child by blood. Stepparents often play a crucial role in a child’s life. However, stepparents do not have the same legal rights and protections as biological parents unless they legally adopt the child.

If you are a stepparent who would like to adopt your stepchild, read on to learn about the stepparent adoption requirements and procedures in Michigan.

Terminating the Biological Parent’s Parental Rights

Children can only have two parents by law. This means that you may need to get a parent’s parental rights terminated before you can adopt your stepchild. Some parents voluntarily agree to give up their parental rights – especially if they recognize that the stepparent is in a better place to care for their child. Other parents refuse to surrender their parental rights. If the child’s biological parent does not want to give up his or her rights to allow you to adopt the child, you will need to attend a hearing and provide sufficient reasoning for the termination of the parent’s rights.  

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Novi MI adoption lawyerThe adoption process typically involves a great deal of complexities and obstacles before you can welcome your adopted child home. In the face of such adversities, it may seem like the easiest option is to give up. However, there are actions you can take to overcome these hurdles and successfully become an adoptive parent. An obstacle that prospective adopting parents should be aware of is the possibility of their adoption petition being denied. Unfortunately, even relatives to the child or stepparents who have helped to raise the child may be denied at this point. This rejection can be combated by appealing the decision in court.

Reasons a Petition May Be Denied

While it is unlikely for an adoption to be denied, it is still possible and needs to be considered when maneuvering through the adoption process. There are a wide range of reasons why your petition for adoption may be denied, including the following:

  • You have a criminal felony on your record that you failed to disclose in your application

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Novi family law attorneyIn Michigan, when a couple is married, the spouses are both accepted as being the legal parents of their child. This holds true for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. But what about when couples are not married? It can be quite difficult to figure out parental rights, such as child custody. If you are currently dealing with child custody issues, understanding your rights is key.

Unmarried Fathers in Michigan

Unmarried mothers are presumed to have primary custody of their children unless the biological father establishes paternity and attains a court order of custody rights. Unmarried fathers can establish paternity voluntarily with the agreement of the mother by signing an Affidavit of Parentage either at the hospital when the child is born or later on. If paternity is contested, a father can establish parentage through the court in a process that typically involves genetic testing to determine if there is a biological relationship.

After establishing paternity, a father will need to take additional legal action to pursue a new custody arrangement. Keep in mind, however, that under Michigan law, it can be very difficult for a biological father to establish paternity and get custody rights if the child’s mother is married to another man, as that man will already be presumed to be the child’s legal father.

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novi adoption lawyerMost people who have grown their family through adoption will agree that it is a fulfilling experience. Many children in the foster care system are available for adoption and are waiting for forever families, but before they can find a family, that family must meet specific requirements. One of the biggest requirements is the successful completion of a home study. Home studies are meant to ensure that the adoptive family is suitable for a child, but the process can be extensive. If you are considering adoption, you should be aware of the requirements to adopt and be prepared for your home study. 

Elements of a Home Study

Every person who wants to be a foster parent or adopt a child in Michigan must complete a home study. The home study is typically done by your adoption worker, who is a licensed social worker. The home study is conducted through a series of meetings between you and your adoption worker, at least one of which must be at your home so the worker can observe where a child would be living. During the home study process, the adoption worker will gather information about: 

  • Your family’s personal history. The adoption worker will conduct interviews with everyone in the household, including any other children you already have. Your personal history is meant to provide the adoption worker a snapshot of what kind of family you are and what kind of child may do well in your household. The adoption worker will compile your family history into a report that will be used during the placement process.

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Oakland County Bar Association State Bar of Michigan Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan WCCDBA Woman Lawyers Association of Michigan
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