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THE LEGAL EFFECTS OF GROWING YOUR FAMILY

by TimDenker | on Sept 7, 2014 

My wife is about nine months pregnant as I am writing this, and we're anxiously and impatiently awaiting her arrival. The whole process of having a baby has been a life changing experience! I certainly knew there would be natural, biological changes for my wife as she went through pregnancy (some were more noticeable to me than others) but I was surprised by the changes I’ve noticed in myself as well. I guess it's a paternal instinct, which I didn't even know existed. The changes are more of a mental shift that have helped me become very focused on becoming a better provider for my family. I find myself more willing to take on risks and challenges that have the potential for greater reward and have suddenly become ready to step out of my comfort zone to help accomplish these new goals.

Having children changes everything, inside and out, for both a mother and a father. As you navigate through the experience, remember there are legal changes that will occur as well. So what are those legal changes?

Tax Benefits!

First off, tax laws are always changing. I definitely recommend having this discussion with your CPA so they can give you a more detailed description, and updated information.

  1. Keep track of those medical expenses you incur. If you itemize your deductions you'll be able to add the qualifying medical expenses to the list! And even after you give birth there will be all those mom and baby check-ups, shots, and the out-of-pocket health insurance costs to add to the mix.
  2. It's the dependent exemption!!! An automatic exemption of $4,000 (in 2015) assuming you don't make too much.
  3. You might qualify for the Child Care Tax Credit, and possibly the Earned Income Tax Credit as well

Parental Rights / Guardians

Obviously, the biological or adoptive mother and father are the child's parents. They are responsible for "the custody and care of [the child's] person and education." RSMo § 475.025. This means they have the right to pick a name for the child, spend time with the child, and make decisions about the child's residence, education, religion, health care and legal matters until that child turns 18. Along with these rights, the parents have a duty of care to protect, care for and discipline their child. They are even responsible to manage the child's money, unless there's a court order stating otherwise. A parent of a minor can even properly execute a power of attorney to temporarily delegate these duties to another individual. These rights are inherent with the parents and no one else, but these rights can be taken away by the courts under special circumstances.

So what happens to children if their parents die while they're still under 18? If done correctly, the natural parents are the persons who get to make this decision, and to do this, it must be provided for by the Last Will and Testament of the last surviving parent. See RSMo § 475.045(3). If the last surviving parent does not create a will, then it's basically up to the courts and which of the people wanting to be guardian is most convincing to the court. Which begs the questions--Who do you NOT want raising your children?

Health Insurance

For this topic I felt it better to consult with an expert in the health insurance field, Jeffrey Williams of Heritage Benefits.

"When it comes to children being added to the health insurance you have 30 days from the birth of the child to get them added to mom or dad’s policy. Some insurance companies have a provision under a mother’s policy that helps with some of the delivery fees if the child is put under mom’s policy versus dad’s. This is the main reason I put children under mom in the beginning. Once children are a little older and parents have decided to no longer have any more children, then I recommend putting the children under dad because it can, in some cases, cost less to insure them under dad than mom. This of course is not always the case. It used to be more common before healthcare reform came into play, but now that law has changed the landscape depending on the size of company someone works for. Obviously, being a health insurance consultant, I always recommend meeting with or talking to a professional like myself. We are dealing with this issue everyday with our clients and can help direct people in the right direction."

Birth Certificate

This is done through the hospital where the baby is born. If you know where you’ll be delivering your baby, you can pre-register with the hospital before going into labor. This will help make sure you spend more time with your new baby than filling out paperwork.

If you have decided to have a home birth, contact the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of Vital Records or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Office of Vital Statistics, depending on the state you live in.

Social Security Number

Easiest time to do this is when you're submitting the information for their birth certificate. It saves you from waiting in line at the Social Security Office. And while getting the social security number for your child is technically optional, you will need it if you want to deduct them as a dependent on your taxes.

In the event you don't get it done at the hospital when submitting the information for the birth certificate, then you'll need to go to your local social security office. You can find more specific information on this at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10023.pdf.


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