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I will be talking about this with a lawyer next week, but I would like an opinion right now. I have a 4-year-old son, and his father has never attempted to see him. A child-support agency finally found him, and he wants a DNA test. I know he’s the father. But when the test comes back and proves it, can he take my son from me?
Courts generally take the past conduct of the parents into account when determining custody, and judges tend to dislike fathers who duck their financial responsibilities. Unless the man can prove you are an unfit mother, it is unlikely that a court would grant him sole custody.
In any case, if the man has not seen his son once in four years, it seems unlikely he would sue for custody. After all, if he wanted to serve as the boy’s father, he could have done so for the last four years – and without the time and expense of a court hearing. In situations like yours, I almost always advise the woman to seek child support. Raising a child is difficult even when you do have money, and it becomes much harder when you do not.
That said, people can act unpredictably. Perhaps this man has changed his mind and wants contact with his son. I generally advise mothers not to contest visitation requests unless the father is a danger to the child because the birth father has not only a legal right, but also a moral right to see that child. Unless you can prove him an unfit father, he can probably obtain visitation. It’s up to you to determine whether this would be a bad thing.
You have already acted wisely in scheduling a consultation with a lawyer. Your problem requires more than a layman’s advice. You need professional counsel from someone who understands custody law and the court system.
Why do my parents force me to go to bed at 10 p.m. on weekend nights? I am a 13-year-old girl, and my parents say at this age I need extra sleep every day, not just when I am in school. So I go to bed at 10 p.m. just about every night. The worst part is, my room doesn’t have a TV or a computer.
They set the bedtime because they are absolutely right – you need sleep. Most parents let children stay up later on weekends than on weeknights, but most 13-year-olds also need more sleep than they can get going to bed at 10 p.m. on a school night.
In general, 13-year-olds need at least nine hours of sleep a night to function at peak effectiveness. Some will do better with 10 hours. Over time, teens who don’t get enough sleep often become less attentive, perform inconsistently, and lose short-term memory capacity. These issues can, in turn, cause irritability and academic problems.
If your parents had sent an e-mail addressing your concerns, my response would be to ask why they allow you to stay up until 10 p.m. on school nights. However, I would compliment them on not falling prey to an increasingly common brand of foolishness and putting a TV in your room.
Depending on which researchers you ask, somewhere between 50% and 70% of children have televisions in their bedrooms. And according to a study of children in Buffalo, N.Y., kids with televisions in their bedroom generally watch more TV than those who don’t. Admittedly, it doesn’t take much research to figure out that trend. However, the Buffalo survey and other studies have pinpointed some specific problems related to bedroom TV viewing. Children with TVs in their bedrooms tend to score lower on achievement tests. They are also more likely to be overweight, suffer from sleep problems, and take up smoking.
Thank you for reading today’s Q&A. Check back here tomorrow for another installment of the Ask The Dad advice column. If you’d like to submit an Ask The Dad question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org .