(BPT) – Your new bundle of joy has just arrived. In addition to midnight feedings and changing diapers, new parents need to take important steps to set up their children for success in the years to come.
According to FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information, the first and most important step is obtaining an official birth certificate. This document is the gateway to obtaining other important documentation throughout life, such as a Social Security number, a state-issued photo I.D. or a passport.
Here are additional tips from FindLaw.com that every new parent should consider:
Get a Social Security number: Many hospitals allow you to apply for a Social Security number at the same time they are recording your child’s birth. You’ll need the number for a variety of reasons, from declaring your new child as a dependent on your federal and state income taxes to setting up education savings and retirement accounts. Child identity theft is a growing problem, so be sure to safeguard this information.
Obtain custodial rights: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of four first-born babies is born to an unmarried couple living together. In nearly every state, the mother has 100 percent custody rights until paternity (identity of the father) is established. It’s in the child’s financial interest to confirm paternity to guarantee that the father helps support the child financially until he or she turns 18. On the other side, if the father wants to guarantee visitation rights or have a say in how the child is raised, it’s in his interest to initiate the paternity process.
Sign up your child for health insurance: Immediately add your child as a dependent on your health insurance plan. If you don’t have coverage, research options online or through your state. Remember, it will be mandatory for everyone to have coverage in 2014 with the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act.
Consider term life insurance: A customized term life insurance policy can help cover expenses in the event that you or your spouse unexpectedly dies before your child reaches adulthood. You also may consider purchase coverage to pay off your home or any debts.
Select a legal guardian: The other issue to settle in the unexpected death of a parent is to choose a legal guardian in your will. This person would assume legal responsibility for your child until adulthood. Before you designate someone for this, talk to the person to see if he or she is willing to accept the responsibility. If you don’t have a will, new parents can find an attorney with experience in wills and estates in their local area by visiting FindLaw.com.
Fingerprint your child: While it is horrifying to imagine, in the event that your child should go missing, fingerprints and a recent photo of your child can assist authorities. There are many kits available online for you to gather and organize this information.
Get your child immunized: Many state laws require that newborns be immunized for a number of childhood-related diseases before they can enter day care or school. Establish a relationship with a pediatrician and make sure that your child is immunized at the recommended stages of growth.
Know your legal rights at work: Check with your employer about policies related to raising a child and how a new child may affect your benefits. Review paid-time off, sick day and other attendance policies so you are prepared for your child’s own sick days, school conferences and other events.
Start saving now: As soon as you receive your new child’s Social Security number, you should immediately consider opening up a 529 savings plan or Coverdell education savings account. Both can be used to cover future qualified educational expenses for your child. Based on the power of compounding returns, investing over a longer period is more effective than waiting until you have a large amount to invest – so even if it’s a small amount, start investing right away.
To learn more about the law, visit. FindLaw.com.