Parental Access to Child Non-Medical Records

Parental Access to Child Non-Medical Records
One of the rights a parent has with respect to his or her children is the right to receive or review the child’s important records. Access to child records allows a parent to advocate for his or her child and to parent more effectively. This blog will discuss parental access to dental and school records.

California Family Code § 3025 specifically provides that parents have access to their minor child’s medical, dental, and school records. Under this law, it does not matter whether a parent is the custodial parent or not. You can read more about parental access to child medical records at my earlier blog here.

Parents also have the right to access their minor child’s dental records unless one of the following applies:

  • The child is emancipated.
  • The child is on active duty.
  • The record relates to certain restricted topics, such as sexual assault, communicable or sexually transmitted diseases, or alcohol abuse.
  • The dentist determines that releasing the record may harm the patient.

The California Education Code provides parents with wide-ranging rights relating to their children. Many of these rights relate directly to child education records:

  • notification of child absenteeism;
  • standardized and statewide test performance of the child;
  • class curriculum materials;
  • child progress; and
  • “academic performance standards, proficiencies, or skills their child is expected to accomplish.”

Leaving no room for doubt, the law also specifically provides that parents “have access to the school records of their child” and that they have the right to question inaccurate or misleading information in their child’s records. When a parent does this, the school is legally required to provide a response to the parent.

An experienced California family lawyer can be an invaluable advocate for you and your children. If you are involved in a difficult divorce or separation and have questions about your rights, contact the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We have decades of experience in contested divorce and custody issues, and we will put our experience to work for you. Call (415) 259-6636 to get started today.

Get Ready for Next Tax Year: Who Can Claim a Child as a Dependent?

Get Ready for Next Tax Year: Who Can Claim a Child as a Dependent?
If you anticipate that your divorce will be final during the 2016 calendar year, you need to start thinking about changes in your federal tax status. Of course, one of the most obvious changes is that you will no longer be eligible to file as “married,” either jointly or separately. Your filing status can significantly impact your tax liabilities. However, child dependency exemptions also affect your taxable bottom line.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) only allows one parent to claim an exemption for each child during each tax year. Most of the time, the custodial parent has the right to claim the child dependency exemption. That is because one of the requirements for the exemption, known as the “residency requirement,” mandates that the child live with the taxpayer for more than half of the year.

Here are the other requirements:     

  • The child must meet a relationship test. Sons, daughters, and stepchildren all meet this requirement.
  • The child must meet an age test. This generally means that the child must be either under the age of 19 and younger than you are, under the age of 24 and a student, or permanently and totally disabled.
  • The child cannot have provided more than half of his or her annual needs for support.
  • The child must not be filing a joint return.

Special rules apply that may allow a noncustodial parent to claim a child dependency exemption. From a very basic standpoint, this exception applies when the parents are divorced or legally separated and formally agree to the change. However, there are other requirements before this shift may be made, and it is wise to consult with your accountant or tax lawyer to protect yourself if you decide to do this.

If you anticipate losing the dependency exemption for the 2016 tax year, you can be proactive by electing to have more money withheld from your paycheck. This can reduce shocking surprises when filing time rolls around.

With a divorce come many changes, including tax options that can affect you and your children financially. If you need legal assistance in a California divorce, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can work for you and your children: (415) 293-8314.

An Overview of California Adoption

An Overview of California Adoption
California law provides many options for adoption. Of course, California recognizes traditional adoptions, which rely on a state agency. However, California recognizes that all families and their needs are different. For that reason, other mechanisms include stepparent/domestic partner adoption, relative (kinship) adoption, independent adoption, and international adoption.

Traditional Agency Adoption

In a traditional adoption, the California Department of Social Services is involved in the placement of the child with a family, which may consist of a single person. The agency conducts a home study and supervises the adoption placement for a period of time before court approval. A major advantage of adopting a child through the state agency is that state regulations apply. Many children adopted in this manner are in state custody before being placed with a family.

Stepparent/Domestic Partner Adoption

California uses a streamlined adoption procedure when the stepparent or domestic partner of a biological parent wants to adopt a child. To take advantage of this procedure, two requirements must be met:

  • The person who wants to adopt the child must have been married to or in a domestic partnership with the biological parent when the child was born.
  • The person who wants to adopt the child must still be married to or in a domestic partnership with the child’s biological parent.

In these cases, no home study is completed.

Relative (Kinship) Adoption

A simple procedure is also used when certain eligible relatives wish to adopt a child. A relative adoption is unique in several ways, such as the following:

  • The relative can continue to receive financial assistance from the state.
  • After the case is closed, no state agency continues to provide supervision of the relationship between the relative and the child.
  • The relative can choose to enter into an agreement with the biological parents to allow their continuing contact with the child.

Relative adoptions can help continue important family relationships while allowing the relative to receive financial assistance for raising the child.

Independent Adoption

In an independent adoption, no state agency or placement agency is involved in the adoption process. Instead, the adoptive parents and the birth parents agree themselves to the adoption. A main advantage to this option is that parental rights of the birth parents need not be terminated if everyone agrees. Because independent adoptions are highly regulated, is usually advisable to consult with an attorney if you choose this option.

International Adoption

When child to be adopted in California is born overseas, it is referred to as an international adoption. International adoptions can be more complicated because of differing country laws and because the child must have a visa to enter the United States. This is another area in which working with an experienced attorney can help make everything go more smoothly and according to your expectations.

Adopting a child is very exciting and can be very rewarding. If you need the assistance of an experienced California family lawyer to protect your interests in an adoption proceeding, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys help: (415) 293-8314.


Contesting Parentage in California

Contesting Parentage in California

It goes without saying that being a parent comes with both rights and responsibilities. Nowhere is this more evident than in legal proceedings that relate to families. In the realm of family law, a child’s parents have the right to request custody and visitation. However, they also have the responsibility of supporting the child, sometimes by paying child support, uninsured healthcare costs, and child care costs.

When a child is born, the mother’s name is listed on the birth certificate. If the mother is married at the time of birth, her husband is presumed to be the father, and his name is also placed on the birth certificate. Likewise, if the mother was married at the time the child was conceived, that man is presumed to be the father and is listed on the certificate.

If the mother is not married, determining who the father is can be more complicated. A very common way of establishing paternity is through a voluntary Declaration of Paternity completed by the parents. Outside of a presumption or voluntary declaration, court proceedings are often used to determine the child’s father. You can read more about paternity at our earlier blog here.

But what happens when a man disputes that he is the father of the child? Indeed, much is at stake for everyone involved — the mother, the putative father, the child, and the state of California.

The California Family Code reaffirms that the state has a compelling interest in establishing child paternity and that both parents have a duty to support their children. This makes sense because parentage affects many rights:

  • child support;
  • child custody and visitation;
  • health insurance;
  • military benefits, survivors’ benefits, and Social Security benefits; and
  • inheritance rights.

When a parent does not support a child, the child suffers. However, the child’s family and the state are also often negatively affected.

The state child support agency can request that a court establish the paternity of a child. Others who may start a paternity suit include the mother, the child’s personal representative, and, of course, the father. A man has the legal right to request a genetic test to determine whether he is the biological father of a child.

Under California Family Code § 7575, if a man who signed a voluntary declaration of paternity is determined by genetic testing not to be the father, the court may still refuse to set aside the declaration. The court’s decision in this regard is focused on the best interest of the child.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including challenges to paternity. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.