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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Determining Physical Custody – How Does the Court Decide Who the Child Lives With?

by: Ed Brooks

If there is one subject that tears at a parent’s heart it is the issue of custody. Determining who gets custody and visitation is different in every case. There is no exact formula to follow, but there are guidelines and principles you will want to follow to make sure that your child gets the best possible arrangement.

I often hear people discuss custody when they have no idea what the meaning of the word is. Is it any wonder then that people are so confused and scared about this? So let’s define what we are really talking about here. There are two types of custody that the court considers: (these are generalizations, not legal definitions)

• Legal Custody – The right to make decisions regarding education, medical care, dental care, and religion.

• Physical Custody – This is the right pertaining to where the child typically resides.

When both parents have these rights it is considered “Joint” Legal or Physical Custody. Even if the living arrangement isn’t an equal split, the parent with less time can be deemed to have Joint Physical Custody.

No matter what type of Legal and Physical Custody (sole or joint) are granted the visitation schedule needs to be worked out. Read that again then come back. What most people are talking about is the visitation schedule (sometimes referred to as a parenting plan) not custody. While custody does have certain rights, parents almost always have the right to visitation with their children.

First things first. If the parents can come to an agreement, they can draw it up and the court will likely accept it as is and simply file it because it meets the needs of all parties and the court doesn’t want to interfere if it isn’t needed. However, if the parents can’t come to an agreement, the court considers how much visitation time a parent will receive, and is guided by the “best interests of the child." This is where you get do your homework and really build your case. If the child is an infant and the mother breast feeds, fathers’ visitation is likely to be short daytime visits. If one parent lives out of state, the visits are likely to be holidays and summers. If the parents live close to each other, the child is healthy, 7 or 8 years of age or older, and both parents work normal schedules, it is highly likely that an almost equal schedule can be reached. You should be seeing some practical patterns emerge at this time.

Finally, let’s look at how the child’s wishes affect the outcome. It is a myth that if a child is 12 the court will do what they want. There is no magical age and no guarantees. When the court interviews the child, they do so privately. What the child says is kept private and is not shared with anyone. The court will take into account the situation of both parents, the age of the child and how mature they are, and what the effects of the child’s wishes would have on the relationships of the child with both parents.

You can see that there are many factors that the court must weigh before making a decision. There are no hard and fast rules and no one can predict the outcome. But you can put forth a reasonable argument based on your circumstances if you know what the court is looking to accomplish.

Unwanted Toys - 16 Ideas For What To Do With Them

by: Chloe Alice Wilson

Knowing what to do with unwanted toys can be the biggest stumbling block when it comes to taking action to get rid of these house cluttering items. Children grow out of them or they did not like them in the first place, for whatever reason, every household has a pile of toys that no longer see the light of day. If every time you look at the ever growing mountain of abandoned toys you quickly walk by or close the door, take heart, finding a better home for them is easier than you think. So where do you start?

Firstly you need to consider which toys should really go in the rubbish and which can safely be given away. You should not give away: v

* toys which are at the end of their useful life
* soft toys, unless they are new or in as-new condition
* toys which have suffered significant damage.

In other words only give away toys in a condition that you yourself would buy. If you have the original packing or manufacturer’s instructions give them away with the toy.

Secondly you need to decide whether you want to GIVE your unwanted toys away or make a bit of spare change from selling them.

The following 11 ideas cover donating your unwanted toys to worthy causes:

1. Donate to Charity Shops

Pop into your local charity shops and ask if they accept second hand toys. Don’t be offended if they don’t because due to health & safety regulations it often costs the charity more money (in terms of staff time having to check for loose threads/parts/batteries etc) than actually buying them brand new. If they will accept your donations do not forget to sign the Gift Aid declaration form, to boost the value of your donation by 28%.

Charity shops obviously benefit the charity they are supporting, be that children’s charities, medical charities etc. If you would prefer your toys to go directly to less fortunate children ideas 3-11 may be more appealing.

2. Donate to Charities Online

By using the Ebay For Charity initiative, you can sell your unwanted toys and the proceeds will be sent directly to the charity. Items being sold for charity are identified with a distinctive ribbon symbol along with a description of the charity that will be receiving the proceeds of the sale. Buyers place bids for these goods in the usual way, knowing their money will go to a worthwhile cause.

JumbleAID is another online answer to your mountainous toy problem - they let you post adverts for your unwanted toys (and other things) online and anyone can pledge a donation for them. It is free and easy to use and all of the funds raised go to your chosen charity.

3. Donate to Hospitals

This is only really appropriate for new toys due to safety/infection concerns but sometimes we all find toys that our children received two of or perhaps some that they were not so keen on that never left the box.

4. Donate to Childrens’ Homes

Children in homes are typically older so when considering which toys would be suitable go with an average age of about 14. Find your nearest home using a service using an online search to see if these children could benefit from part of your unwanted toy stash.

5. Donate to Women’s Refuges

Women’s refuges help hundreds of thousands of women and children escape domestic violence each year. Often they flee their homes leaving all of their possession behind. Find the number of your local Domestic Violence service online through an organisation such as Women’s Aid, to offer your help through your used toys.

6. Send Your Toys To Orphanages Abroad

There are many orphanages, child health homes and day care centers abroad who are in need of toys. Some encourage you to send your toys, old and new, to improve the lives of these children as well as monetary donations. To find addresses of orphanages that do accept toy donations, search on Google for “send toys to african orphanages” or “chinese orphanages” or something similar and find their donations page. Some only accept monetary donations but you can find addresses if you are persistent.

7. Donate to Family Centres

Contact your local Social Services Department to see if they know of any family centres near you that will take and get good use from your second hand toys.

8. Ask Your Local Church

Ask your local church if they know of families who could benefit from your unwanted toys.

9. Donate to Special Needs Schools, Playgroups or Nurseries

Find your nearest special needs school, playgroup or nursery and ask if they will accept second hand toys.

10. Donate to Toy Libraries

Toy libraries offer services to local children, families and carers based on regular toy loan for a nominal fee (and sometimes for free). Contact the National Association of Toy & Leisure Libraries online to find a library nearest to you.

11. Use The Freecycle Network

Freecycle is an online network of groups that match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them. Their goal is to keep usable items out of landfills. Find your local group from their website and send the details of the toy you are offering in an e-mail. All items must be offered for free.

The remaining 5 ideas cover making a few pounds from your second hand toys to help in the current gloomy economic climate:

When selling your second hand toys you must be aware that all second-hand toys sold or supplied in the course of a trade or business fall under The Toys (Safety) Regulations 1995 which requires that they must be safe and bear the CE marking.

1. Sell Them On Ebay

Sign up with Ebay, an online auction and shopping website, where you can advertise your unwanted toys for sale and interested buyers will make bids if they are interested in your item.

2. Sell Them On Craigslist

Sign up online with Craigslist, a centralised network of online communities, and submit a free online classified advert for your item.

3. Sell Them At A Car Boot Sale

Look in your local newspaper to find the location of your nearest car boot sale, usually held over the weekend. Make sure you turn up early to ensure you get a pitch. You will have to pay a fixed fee for setting up your car boot in the sales area so make you sure you take enough unwanted items to make it worth your while. Portable tables or blankets are a good idea to take with you to display your goods on.

4. Organise a Toy Swap Party

Arrange with other parents a time and a place for everyone to bring their unwanted toys and the chances are all items will change hands very quickly. The downside to this is that you will not end up decluttering your house of toys but you will get some new toys for free.

5. Rent Them Out

Find an online toy rental service, such as Zilok, and make some money by loaning out your unwanted toys by the day.

Start DeCluttering Now

As parents it is a daily task to try and keep on top of the toy chaos that surrounds us. Decluttering the house of unwanted toys is a logical way to restore a bit of order and get part of your home back. Hopefully at least one of the above ideas will work for you and you will feel better knowing another child is benefitting from your efforts.

What ideas do you have for dealing with unwanted toys? Have you tried them and if so, were they successful? I’d love to hear your comments and examples.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Internet Safety for Kids: 10 Guidelines to Help You Protect Your Children Online

by: Jamie Jefferson

Many kids these days are technically savvy, and their abilities on a keyboard often develop more quickly than their ability to recognize a potential threat. A young person's innocence and natural sense of trust can put her into dangerous situations, especially online, where everyone is virtually anonymous.

Here are ten tips to help you protect your kids when they are using the internet:

1. Install a filter or firewall so that your child can't access potentially harmful sites. It's easy to find filters that are low-cost and even free. Start your search on CNet, which catalogs a number of filters with a variety of features for a child's different ages and stages.

2. Don't leave your kids alone in front of the computer. Allow them to use the Internet only in a common area of your home, where you can see the sites that they are visiting and the types of activities that they are engaged in. While it's important to have a filter on your computer so your child doesn't stumble onto the wrong websites, it's also important to not rely on that filter 100 percent. Some filters don't always block everything, and your child may even have the technical savvy to work around it. You still need to monitor what they are looking at.

3. Let kids know to never give out their name, phone number, address, email address, or password. They should know never to give information that could identify them in any way, such as the school they attend. Make sure they know to ask your permission before entering their email address in an online form or registering on any website.

4. Bookmark family friendly websites or save a link directly to the desktop so their favorite websites are one click away. That will save them from stumbling on the wrong website because of a typographical error.

5. Enable the security settings of your favorite search engines. Google, for example, has a SafeSearch option, which will block websites with sexually explicit content from appearing in the search results. You'll find this option by clicking "Search Preferences" from Google's main page.

6. Keep your kids from triggering malicious popups by using your browser's popup blocker settings. You might also consider disabling Java, depending on the kinds of sites your children visit.

7. Consider creating a family email address (instead of allowing individual ones) so that you can access and monitor emails.

8. Let kids know the importance of not opening emails or downloading attachments from senders whom they don't know. If you allow your kids to use email and instant messaging, reiterate that these services are ways to connect with their existing friends and not a way to make new friends. Emphasize that they should not reach out to strangers online or answer emails from people they don't know. And if they are approached by a stranger online, they should let you know immediately. Instruct your kids to let you know right away if something unexpected happens on the computer (if they get a popup asking them for personal information, for example, or if someone whom they don't know sends them an instant message).

9. Emphasize that, just because something is published on the Internet, it doesn't mean it's a fact. Give children and teens guidelines for discerning which sites are trustworthy and give them examples of sites that you turn to for trustworthy information.

10. Teach your kids what to do if they feel scared or threatened when they are online. Make sure your children know that they can come to you with any problem.