Don't Take "No" for an Answer When It Comes to the Education of Your Special Needs Child

Parents are entitled to receive Prior Written Notice when their child's school refuses to implement a change to the child's IEP at the parent's request.  Federal law requires that the notice have several components.  Do not settle for any thing less than what's required under the law.

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I Choose Life TODAY - Not Waiting for New Years Day

Deuteronomy 30:19: “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!"

Yesterday morning, as I was breastfeeding my daughter, I again felt a slight pain in my abdomen that I have considered a reminder of the poor health choices that I have been making of late.   I have not been eating right.  With it being the holiday season, I have allowed myself to be a little too festive and have been eating whatever is placed before me.  In addition to that, I have not exercised much at all since the day I had my baby, and as can be expected, I am quite sleep deprived.  When I think of the options that I have before me - life and death, blessings and curses -   it frustrates me to consider which options I have been consistently choosing.  If you need a clue, I have not been choosing life and blessings.  In other words, the choices that I have been making of late have been more in favor of shortening my life than promoting it. 

And for what reason am I making such poor choices?  To feel good for a moment?  Am I constantly voting in favor of death with my habits for temporary pleasures?  It is quite absurd when you think about it.  I have a loving husband, a beautiful baby girl, a fulfilling law practice, and so much more, yet I have constantly chosen cookies, cakes, poorly raised meats, and a lot of other junk over them.  It's absolutely pathetic if one is perfectly honest. 

Today, I Choose Life

So what is a woman to do about such a predicament?  I choose life today.  Not tomorrow.  Not after January 1.  TODAY.  Now that my leftovers of pizza and Chinese food have been removed from my fridge (and were eaten for lunch yesterday), I have made the decision that starting RIGHT NOW, I will begin making choices that promote my health rather than destroy it.  It has to start today.  And it will.  I can do this with God's help, as, like the Apostle Paul, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I have already adopted this as my life motto, and now I am applying it to my health.  I have no excuse.  I know what to do.  I have done it several times before.  It is just time for me to put what I know into action and do so for the long haul. 

Using the 66 Day Choose Life Challenge to Get Me Started

According to www.the1thing.com (and other sources), it takes about 66 days to form a habit.  Of course that number varies from person to person, but I figure that if I do something intentionally for 66 days, it has a good chance of becoming a permanent part of my life, unless I intentionally revert back to my old ways.  While browsing the ONE Thing's website, I ran across a blog post about a 66 day challenge, which challenges the reader to commit to doing one thing for 66 days with the goal of it becoming a habit.  I plan to address my need to change my lifestyle habits through what I am calling the 66 Day Choose Life Challenge.  My goal for the next 66 days is to journal about how well I do in five areas of my life: eating, drinking (water), exercising, sleeping, and investing in my spiritual life.  I have established targets for each of those areas and plan to document my progress toward those targets for each day. 

Eating

What I have been eating is the problem that stands out the most in terms of the choices that I have been making.  I know that processed grains and sugars are like poison to the body, yet during the past few months I have been eating them without much thought, along with meats that were raised in who-knows-what manner.  My goal is to eliminate processed grains and sweets from my diet with the exception of one special treat per week.  In addition, I plan to reduce my consumption of meat, and when I do eat meat, I will aim to eat meat and other animal by-products from animals that I know have been raised in a humane manner (i.e. grass-fed and allowed to roam about in as natural a habitat as possible). 

Drinking

These days I pretty much only drink water; however, I know that I have not been drinking nearly enough.  As I mentioned before, I am currently breastfeeding, so I need to place an even higher priority on my water intake.  For the average person, the latest recommendation has been to drink half of one's body weight in water per day.  My husband gave me a Klean Kanteen water bottle a couple of years ago, and it is still holding strong!  It holds about 27 ounces of water, and, at the risk of disclosing too much information about my weight, I need to fill and empty my bottle at least three times a day.  Since I'm breastfeeding, I need to drink more, but I figure that I have got to start somewhere.

Exercising

I have not broken a sweat (other than those annoying post-partum night sweats), since my baby was born.  I have established a goal of exercising at least 20 minutes a day.  Whether I pop in my Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred DVD or take a walk around the block, I have got to get at least 20 minutes of activity in a day.  Considering that I sit behind a desk at the office all day, 20 minutes a day is not nearly enough; however, like I mentioned before I have got to start somewhere.  

Sleeping

I am the mother of an infant.  An infant who is currently teething, at that.  I have come to accept the harsh reality that sleep will never be the same for me.  However, my body does not quite understand that and still needs adequate sleep in order to function properly.  Since I cannot count on getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep at a time, I can at least make sure that I get to bed in time to ensure that I can cobble together spurts of sleep so that I can get as close to 7 hours of sleep at night as possible.  In efforts to get to bed earlier, I have designated a cut off time for the use of electronics and plan at that time to transition to getting ready for bed and the next day, as well as spending some time in prayer, which leads me to the final category. 

Spiritual Health

An important element of my health is my spiritual health.  If this aspect of my life is not nurtured, then every thing else falls apart.  My relationship with God is where I draw my sense of purpose and it helps me to maintain a balanced perspective in this often tumultuous world.  I aim to spend at least an hour of time in prayer, meditation, or reading the Bible each day.  

Looking Forward to Enjoying New Life

I anticipate that in 66 days, I will be enjoying an enhanced life.  I look forward to eliminating my "mommy belly" and not having to worry about that occasional abdominal pain.  I also hope to be a more disciplined person and have more power to overcome food temptations and cravings.  I do not anticipate that this will be easy, especially during the holiday season, but few things worth having come easily.  If you are reading this on December 16, 2014, or sometime thereabout, I hope that you would join me in this challenge.  Maybe your goals might be different, but we all have areas in our lives in which we tend to choose "death and curses" but in which we desire to begin choosing "life and blessings."  I would love to hear about the challenges you face and how you plan to overcome them in the comments section below.  Even if you read this after I have already begun my challenge, please feel free to write about your experience in the comments.  Choose life today!  If only so that your descendants might live better, choose life!  

Fathers' Rights During the Holidays (and Throughout the Year)

I am the biological father of a child that I had with my ex-girlfriend.  I want to visit with my son this holiday season, but his mother will not allow me to see him.  What can I do?

Fathers in Georgia Do Not Automatically Receive Rights

First, you need to establish your legal rights to visit with your son.  In Georgia, if you father a child with a woman to whom you were not married when the child was born, you have no automatic legal rights to the child.  To establish legal rights to your child, you should go to the superior court of your county and file a Petition for Legitimation.  It does not matter if your name is on the child’s birth certificate.  Having your name on the child's birth certificate only makes you the putative father (i.e. the man who's assumed to be the father).  A court order is the best way (and in most cases, the only way) to establish your legal rights to your child.  An administrative (i.e. does not require a court order) means of legitimating your child does exist; however, it must be completed before the child's first birthday, and it cannot be used to establish visitation rights.  To learn more about legitimating a child administratively, visit the Administrative Office of the Courts' website for a document on establishing paternity and legitimation under Georgia law.

If your child's mother agrees to the legitimation, (which does not seem likely since she does not want you to visit with him) then you should have her sign a Mother's Consent to Legitimation and file it with your Petition.  That should make the process move a lot more quickly and keep you from having a drawn out court hearing. 

It Is Best to Legitimate When the Child is Young

When trying to legitimate your son, his age matters, as well as the steps you have taken to establish a relationship with him over the course of his lifetime.  Courts will be reluctant to legitimate your relationship with your son if he is an older child and you have not established a relationship with him.  However, if you have a good reason for not legitimating the child when he was younger the court may take that factor into consideration. 

In addition, the court will look at whether you have provided your son with sufficient financial support over the course of his lifetime.  If you are providing your son with financial support, you should gather as much documentation as possible to support this (i.e. receipts, post office delivery confirmations, bank statements, etc.).  Even without a court order establishing paternity or legitimation, you are obligated by state law to financially support the child if you are his father. 

In addition to filing a Petition for Legitimation in Superior Court, you should also file a Petition for Visitation in order to establish your rights to visit with your child.  The common practice would be to combine the two petitions in a Petition for Legitimation and Visitation.  If you request visitation rights with your request for legitimation, you should also attach a proposed visitation schedule with the petition that you file with the court.

One of our child custody lawyers will be happy to speak with you about your situation

We strongly advise that you talk with an attorney before filing a Petition for Legitimation or Petition for Legitimation and Visitation, especially if the child's mother does not consent to the legitimation.  Georgialegalaid.org provides pro se forms on their website, but legitimation and visitation cases can get pretty complex and need to be done correctly from the very beginning.  Please contact our office to have one of our skilled attorneys assist you with your legitimation and visitation matter. 

Spend Wisely This Holiday Season

If you are like most Americans, you probably have already started your holiday shopping. For those who have some shopping left to do, consider the following tips to help you spend wisely this season so that you are not saddled with debt after the holiday bliss fades away.

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Understanding your school's student discipline process

Whether you are an innocent bystander or active participation in a behavior incident at school, you need to know your rights in case you become involved with the school discipline system.  Read on to learn what steps you should take should you or your child face a suspension or expulsion from school.

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BETTY’S BACK TO SCHOOL TIP #1: Unconditional Love

“Back to School” is the time of year to which many parents look forward .  We hope that our child’s temperament, teacher, and school will be a good fit.  We prepare our children physically by buying the latest fashions and stocking up on school supplies.  We make all the preparations that we believe are necessary for a successful school year with the hope that this school year will be better than the year before.  However, parents must prepare themselves for the academic aspect of Back to School as well.  As a result, over the next several weeks, my partner and I will alternately post Back to School tips to help parents get started on the right foot this school year.  With myself being a parent, my posts will focus primarily on the dynamics of parenting and nurturing the parent-child relationship.  My partner’s posts will provide information on your legal rights as a parent and ensure that you are well equipped to advocate for your child during this school year. 

First, parents must constantly remind themselves that a child is a gift from God.  Typically, the birth of a child will alter the lives of the two individuals that conceived the child.  Most often, these changes manifest in the way the parents spend their money and time.  New parents have an innate desire and ability to feel and display “love” to their newborn child.  When our children are infants and toddlers, we as parents shower our children with love through gifts, birthday parties, a good education, toys, games, clothes, bedroom furniture, etc.  We pride ourselves on how much we love our children.  In these early years, parents display what I call “unconditional love” to their children.  Unconditional love means love without any strings attached; children don’t have to do anything to earn their parents’ affection, gifts, smiles, and kind words. 

However, a phenomenon takes place when children enter grade school.  At that time, parents tend to develop several unspoken expectations of the child that precede the release and level of love a child will receive from them.  Those expectations are based on the child’s satisfactory performance of the following specific behaviors:

1.        Thou shall respect your principal, teachers, and staff.

2.        Thou shall behave appropriately in school. 

3.        Thou shall be actively engaged in learning at school.

4.        Thou shall finish your classwork every day and homework every night.

5.        Thou shall be organized and stay on top of your assignments, tests, and quizzes. 

6.        Thou shall sit quietly in class.

7.        Thou shall not distract others from learning.

8.        Thou shall bring home “A’s” on your report card.

9.        Thou shall learn how to read and write.

10.     Thou shall not hang out with the bad kids at school.

Many parents may believe it is simple for children to perform the above behaviors .  However, children with special or unmet needs may find it almost impossible to meet each of the standards on the list.  If your child falls into this category, he or she may put a great deal of strain on your time, energy, money, and household relationships.  When your child enters school, you will focus the majority of the time you spend with them on school.  For many parents, as their child gets older and the demands of school become greater, “fun time” gradually becomes a thing of the past.  Spending quality time with your child ends up being a goal that your child’s therapist recommends rather than something that occurs naturally.  Unfortunately, parents may begin to believe that their child is intentionally failing to perform the expectations in the above list in a satisfactory manner, which leads  some parents to withdraw love and replace love with anger, disappointment, and sometimes emotional and physical abuse.  

A parent’s love should be patient, kind, long suffering, and most importantly, unconditional.  Parenthood will test our characters and teach us about God’s capacity to love us.   As we begin this new school year, I implore each parent to resolve to love their children unconditionally.  In order to do that we must remind ourselves daily that Christ loves us unconditionally.  We are far from perfection, but God loves us anyway.  We fall short of successfully meeting all of His standards, but God loves us anyway.  Your child will never do everything right, and will often do the exact opposite from what you’ve taught them, but I encourage you to love your child anyway.