Allocation of Parental Responsibility (APR) is becoming more and more common in the courts across the country. As society changes, there are more couples who live together or have children without getting married.
Upon the breakup of their relationships these couples with children are faced with three issues: 1) Decision Making, 2) Parenting Time and 3) Child Support allocation. In addition, if one parent wants to move because of family ties or economic necessity there is further stress on the family and this issue will need to be addressed. Just as with divorce, the situation can be more complex when there are children from prior relationships.
In APR matters parents do not have to address the issues of maintenance and division of property and debt which are often disputed in divorce cases.
Parents in APR cases work under the same statutes as parents in divorce cases in regard to their children. Once the case is filed the parents will each need to attend a parenting class and go to mediation. The court will expect the parents to attempt to resolve issues between themselves as the child’s parents. Early Neutral Assessment can be a very useful approach in APR matters. ENA helps the parents gain a realistic understanding of what is likely to happen. It also helps them to focus on the child’s interests. An ENA meets the requirement for mediation. If a settlement of all issues cannot be reached the case will be set for a hearing. Please see our blog articles on ENA and the advantages of settlement.
Just as in a divorce, parents in an APR case can seek help from experts including Child & Family Investigators and Parental Responsibility Evaluators to provide information to the Court as to the best interests of the children.
Parents in APR matters may benefit from the advice of an attorney in order to fully understand their rights and how the “Best Interests” standard will apply. A consult with an attorney experienced in family law is usually a good idea, even if you decide to represent yourself. For those with limited funds assisted self-representation, under Rule 11(b), is an option to consider. In addition, the same resources are available to parents who were never married as to those seeking divorce. There are pro se clinics, Sherlocks, and a host of other resources. Our blog article on resources may also be helpful to you.