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On April 30, 2014, The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) granted accreditation to the NALA Certified Paralegal program for demonstrating compliance with the NCCA Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. The NCCA Standards were created to ensure certification programs adhere to modern standards of practice for the certification industry.  The NALA Certified Paralegal program joins an elite group of more than 120 organizations representing over 270 certification programs that have received and maintained NCCA accreditation. More information on the NCCA is available online at www.credentialingexcellence.org/NCCA

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Family Law - Child Custody, Support and Visitation
This page summarizes the Family Law Advanced Paralegal Certification program on Child Custody, Child Support and Visitation. Use the links below to review the items, register or login to the course. If you have not already registered as a user on the NALA APC web site, click "Register for the Course." If you have already registered for this or another APC course, you have already created a user account, click "Login."

Paralegals who are not seeking the Advanced Paralegal Certification credential are welcome to register and take any APC courses as advanced continuing education programs. CLE credit is available upon completion of the courses from NALA for Certified Paralegals, and from various state CLE programs.

Prerequisite Knowledge Learning Contract Register for the course
Fee: $250 Members; $300 Non Members

Family Law APC Certification Courses and Credentials

The APC Certification Board has determined that an ACP designation in Family Law will be awarded to Certified Paralegals who complete the following courses:
  • Child Support, Visitation and Child Custody
  • Division of Property
  • Adoption and Assisted Reproduction
  • Dissolution Case Management – to include critical information related to management of a case from intake to decree. This would include information related to litigation of the case, reading tax returns and unusual instances such as dissolution of same sex marriages.

Successful completion of all 4 courses will lead to a certification in Family Law. Upon completion of the individual courses, and all course requirements, qualified Certified Paralegals will receive an Advanced Paralegal Certification credential in the individual area.  Completion of this course will lead to an ACP credential in Child Custody, Child Support and Visitation.

Course Description

This course concentrates on practice and procedure in the area of child custody, support, and visitation. Federal courts traditionally abstain from family law matters, considering state legislatures and local courts better suited for resolving family issues. As a result, state law is the primary law affecting the support and care of children in the United States. State law regarding children's issues in any given state is a collection of statutes and common law, labeled with topics such as marriage and family, husband and wife, family relations, divorce, guardian and ward, and support of minors. Because of the localized nature of family law, there is uniformity among the states on some principles, but also significant diversity in others. Applicable law, rules, procedures, and terminology may vary widely from state to state and within states from city to city.

Traditional models of child custody in divorce cases place the child with a custodial parent, while allowing visitation and imposing support obligations on the other parent. A modern trend in many jurisdictions dispenses with terms "custody" and "visitation" altogether, in favor of more flexible approaches to "parenting time" and "access" to children. Various aspects of custody are typically referred to as “parental responsibilities," and may be further divided into physical and legal responsibilities, or similar alternative terms. Where possible, these jurisdictions promote development of custom parenting plans tailored to the unique circumstances of the parties and the best interests of the children involved. However, from traditional models to modern innovation, through variations in practice and terminology, the basic underlying purpose of this area of practice is to maximize the child’s best interests and continuing relationships with parents and other adults.

The course begins with the framework of applicable state, federal, and Constitutional law, followed by discussions of paternity, child custody jurisdiction and determinations; visitation rights and factors;  child support obligations, guidelines,  and jurisdiction; enforcement and modification of custody, support, and visitation orders within and outside the state of origin; state regulation of the parent-child relationship; and common litigation issues.

Click here  to open "Role of the Paralegal" in child custody, support and visitation practice. This is the basis for this advanced course. 

Prerequisite Knowledge

Those taking this course should be familiar with the following:

  • US and state constitutions
  • State and federal legislation
  • Judgments, damages and remedies
  • Basic torts and contracts
  • Basic administrative law
  • Practice & procedure forms
  • Internet research
  • Trial practice
  • Federal and state civil procedure
  • Statutes of  limitations
Course Modules

The Advanced Paralegal Certification course on Family Law - Child Support, Child Custody and Visitation  consists of successful completion of 8 modules of text, assessments, and assignments. The modules and their objectives are as follows:

1. Parents and Children: Legal Framework
Module 1 presents an overview of the law applicable to the parent-child relationship: state law, including statutes, common law, model statutes, and local regulations; US Constitutional provisions such as the due process and equal protection clauses, and the right to privacy; federal law, including direct and incentive legislation, tax and welfare laws, conventions, and treaties; types of child custody; parental authority over and obligations to support children; litigation involving child custody and support determinations.
2. Paternity
Module 2 addresses historical and modern views on establishing a child's paternity; determination of legitimate heirs, presumptions of legitimacy, and consequences of illegitimacy; US Supreme Court application of the equal protection clause to discrimination and restrictions based on the marital status of a child's parents; requirements and application of the US Constitution's due process clause on the rights of unmarried fathers and their children; methods and legal effect of establishing paternity, including acknowledgments, paternity registries, prosecution, civil action, divorce, and administrative hearings; statutory legitimation procedures; parties to paternity actions, including mothers, guardians, children, state agencies, interested persons, putative fathers, and the role of counsel; blood and DNA testing for the purpose of determining a child's paternity.
3. Custody
Module 3 examines legal rights and responsibilities related to the custody of children, including jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA); jurisdiction priority, continuing jurisdiction, and emergency jurisdiction; standards for awarding custody, including the doctrines of tender years, primary caregiver, and best interest of the child; factors in determining best interest of the child, including the approximation standard, child's wishes, and parental nomination; elements of custody dispute resolution; constitutional factors in child custody determinations, including race, religion, gender, and natural parents; the impact of parental conduct on custody determinations, including domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and parental cooperation; the effect of parental wealth, work status, sexual orientation, and disability on custody determinations; joint custody plans and preferences
4. Visitation
Module 4 is a comprehensive discussion of the rights and duties of parents and other interested persons in visitation with or "access" to a child, including the purpose of visitation, duties of the custodial parent and visiting parent, and the importance of continuity in the child's environment; types of visitation, including reasonable, scheduled, supervised, restricted, and conditional visitation; factors used by courts in determining visitation, including the best interest of the child, the child's age and activities, distance and travel, and maintenance of the child's personal relationships; "standard" visitation statutes and guidelines; factors in drafting visitation schedules, including medications, illnesses, accidents, communication, gifts, trips, activities, clothing, school, cancellation, child transfer, and parental relocation; consideration of holidays and extended visitation, such as birthdays, holidays, special occasions, summer vacation, priorities, and contingencies; the rights of grandparents and other nonparents, and the corresponding rights in responsibility of custodians; assistance in communication with clients regarding visitation, including setting client expectations, prevention of issues, mediation and counseling, the relationships, and remedies for noncompliance.
5. Child Support
Module 5 is a comprehensive look at the law of child support, including the form and nature of child support, actions for child support, orders, and judgments; jurisdiction to adjudicate child support, including personal and subject matter jurisdiction, pleadings, and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA); requirements and characteristics of state child support guidelines; models used to establish state child support guidelines, including the income shares model, percentage of income model, and Melson formula; calculation of primary support obligation using gross or net income; deviation from guidelines; escalation provisions to account for inflation; adjustment to child support to account for joint debt, insurance premiums, cash medical support, fixed medical expenses, extraordinary medical expenses, necessary child care, multiple children in households, and acceleration in the event of the payer's death; methods for making adjustments to account for increased parenting time, including the cross credit formula, per diem formula, quadratic equations, and the Indiana approach; adjustments for high and low incomes; availability of retroactive support and fees; duration and termination of the child support obligation, taking into account the age of majority, the child's education, and disability.
6. Enforcement and Modification
Module 6 discusses enforcement and modification of orders, including contempt citations, criminal penalties, tort claims, writs of habeas corpus, and interstate enforcement; modifiable custody orders; substantial or material change in circumstances, serious endangerment standard, and relocation of a parent; joint custody and visitation modification, and interstate modification under the UCCJEA; federal child support enforcement methods and programs through the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, Title IV-D Of the Social Security Act, the Child Support Recovery Act, and the Family Support Act, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act; state agency enforcement and collection programs, and parent locators; state courts child support enforcement methods, including new hire directories, remedies, judgments, criminal sanctions, contempt, and license revocation; application of the UIFSA in enforcement of child support, including full faith and credit and for the orders; in-state modification of child support, including requirements for modification, involuntary and voluntary changes, remarriage, and an improvement in a parent's resources.
7. Special Issues: Parent, Child, and State
Module 7 is an overview of the powers and limits of the state to regulate or interfere with the parent-child relationship. Topics include the parents right to control a child's education, state compulsory education requirements, homeschooling, religious objections, and children's rights at school; parental rights and obligations in providing medical care to a child, including compulsory medical treatment, children's rights, religious objections, terminal illnesses and conditions, and psychiatric care; definition and consequences of child neglect, including the parents’ duties, standards of neglect, medical neglect, failure to thrive, future and related neglect, and juvenile actions; definition and consequence of child abuse, discipline, and emotional and sexual abuse of the child, and drug abuse by parents and children; statutory imposition of duties to report suspected or known child neglect and abuse; state intervention in the parent-child relationship, including summary seizure, enforced medical treatment, termination of parental rights, and the juvenile court system; the rights of children and parents and actions by the state; the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and the Uniform Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect and Custody Proceedings Act; placement of children in foster care, the Federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, and the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act; tort contractual liability of children, including contributory and comparative negligence, parental liability for children in sports, and children's rights to enforce or void contracts; property rights of parents and their children, including rights to the child's earnings and services, and property held in trust for children.
8. Litigation
Module 8 discusses general litigation processes and procedures for actions involving child custody, support, and visitation. Topics cover the initial client intake, including the initial client conference and information gathering, obtaining releases, and securing the client assistance in compiling information; action pleadings and jurisdiction, including initial pleadings, demonstration of the child's best interests, establishment of a material change in circumstances or presence of imminent harm to the child; necessary temporary orders, including protective orders, temporary custody and support orders, and mandatory exchanges of information; typical impermissible evidence to present at hearings and trials, including parental and child behavior, school performance, the child's environment, and the child's mental and physical health; confidentiality and other issues with discovery; investigation of clients and other parties, including background checks, computer examinations, medical examinations, and home evaluations; expert and lay witnesses; issues in presenting children as witnesses in court, including delayed discovery of traumatic events, hearsay, and the Sixth Amendment right to confrontation.