Can I fly with my new baby? Can I give birth to my child in another country? What documents do I need to register my child for school? How do I protect my children if I am unable to care for them? What would happen if I can’t pick my child up from daycare?
These are questions I hear every day as an attorney—and have faced as a mom. Whether you stay at home or are a working parent, you know that while having a child is rewarding, it is also a full-time job. If your child is a minor, you have even more work making sure all of your children’s documents are in place for traveling, school or daycare.
As a mom and as an attorney, I know the importance of these top seven documents you should have in place for your children.
1. Birth certificate
Your child’s birth certificate is the first document you need in place after your child is born. This document identifies the place your child was born, their birthdate and your relationship to the child. You will need this document for many events in your child’s future, such as boarding an airplane, registering for school or daycare and, inevitably, a driver’s license.
Generally, a representative at the hospital will bring you an application for a birth certificate after delivery. Once completed, you usually have the option to return this form to the hospital representative or return it by mail. Once returned, a birth certificate can usually be obtained in 7-10 days by mail. You should check with the vital record’s office of your county for more details.
2. Social security card
Your child’s social security card is probably the second most important document you should have in place for your child. This card will obtain a unique number issued to your child that they will use throughout their lives to obtain health insurance, employment and government benefits.
As with a birth certificate, you can generally get the form needed to apply for a social security card from the hospital where you deliver your baby. If you aren’t provided one or didn’t meet your child at a hospital, you can get the form directly from your local social security office.
3. Health insurance cards
If you currently have health insurance, your child is typically covered by your policy for 30 days. In that first 30 days, you must add your child to your policy to continue coverage. If you do not add your child within those first 30 days, most insurance companies will not let you add anyone to your current policy until your next renewal period.
To add your child to your health insurance, most companies require a copy of your child’s birth certificate and eventually their social security number.
4. Vaccination records
With your approval, your child will get vaccinations at the hospital and then continue a series of vaccinations over the course of their first several years. The hospital will provide you with a vaccination card to record the date and type of every vaccination your child receives. This record becomes an important part of their medical history and will be needed to register them in daycare or school. It may also become relevant to diagnose future medical issues.
If you plan to travel internationally with your child or give birth to your child in another country, your child will need a passport. Regardless of whether your child is one day or 9-years-old, your child will need a passport to travel abroad.
The same procedures for applying for a passport for an adult apply to a child, except you must apply in person and take your child with you. Additional documentation includes proof of citizenship by you and your child, which can be shown with a birth certificate.
6. Temporary guardianship nomination form
A temporary guardianship nomination form is a document in which you choose who will take care of your children temporarily when you cannot. Have you considered what would happen to your child if something happened to you and you were unable to pick them up from daycare or the babysitter? Most people haven’t. The likely result is that the police would take your children and place them in the care of strangers until a court could sort out who could care for them if you couldn’t, a result that no parent wants.
This can be avoided completely. By legally documenting temporary guardians for your children and educating their daycare or babysitter about how to proceed if you can’t retrieve your children, you can keep your children out of the system and with caretakers you choose in advance. At my firm, I provide a comprehensive to make sure your children are never at risk if something were to happen to you.
7. Permanent guardianship nomination
A permanent guardianship form is a document in which you choose who will take care of your children in the event of your incapacity or death. While it’s important to consider naming short-term guardians for your children, it’s even more important to think about who would raise your child if you could not. For many of us, it’s as important to make sure that someone we know we wouldn’t want to raise our child does not get that privilege, as it is to keep our child out of the system.
To do that, you must nominate permanent guardians to raise your child in the event that you cannot. By doing this YOU get to choose that person in advance instead of leaving it up to a judge who doesn’t know you or your family. This last document is so important to me that I have a site that will help you through the process of naming long term guardians for FREE: If you have not already named legal guardians for your children, in writing, legally, use this website now to legally document who you would want to raise your kids, if you can't.
And, if you are at all concerned that you don't know who to choose as guardians, the website takes you through a process of making the very best choice for you and your children.
Unfortunately, most parents (and their lawyers) do not plan for the care of their minor children in the right way, leaving their kids at risk, even if they have a will. I learned this myself after reading the book "Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly—and Essential—Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents." I found it so informative myself, as both a mom and a lawyer, that I sought out and became trained in the methodologies taught in the book to ensure no parents in our community would ever leave their kids at risk again due to the common mistakes made in legal planning for parents with young children.