Category Archives: Child Custody

Who Bears Financial Responsibility for the Kids?

Who Bears Financial Responsibility for the Kids?

It’s no secret that divorces where children are involved can be complicated. California divorce judges make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the children. But raising children is expensive. As a divorce nears finalization, one of the most important questions is who will take on financial responsibility for the kids? Mom, Dad, or is it split between the two?

Child Support Fundamentals

Parents generally are responsible for supporting their dependent children. When the parents are divorced, the court orders one or both parents to providing financial support for their children.

Child support generally ends if the child:

  • turns 18 and is not a full-time high school student
  • marries or registers a domestic partnership,
  • becomes emancipated, or
  • turns 19.

Deciding who will be financial responsible for the kids is not always easy.

Determining Child Support

A number of factors go into calculating child support:

  • What are the financial circumstances of both parents;
  • What do the children need;
  • Are there any special expenses like child care, special medical care, or therapy; and
  • Which parent has the most physical responsibility for the kids.

The parents file and submit an Income and Expense Declaration and provide proof of income. The judge reviews each parent’s submission, paying close attention to their net disposable income. The court also looks at all other sources or income or potential sources.

The child support order typically is based in part on how much time each parent spends with their children. Parents who spend less time with their kids may be ordered to provide more monetary support.

The judge also will consider expenses related to the children, including:

  • Basics like food, clothing, and shelter;
  • Health insurance;
  • Child care;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Travel costs related to visitation, and
  • Medical bills currently unpaid.

Of course, the judge will also consider California laws related to child support and California Child Support Guidelines.

The Answer to the Question “Who Bears Financial Responsibility for the Kids” Is . . .

It’s complicated. Both parents bear some of the cost of raising children. However, child support orders may order a greater financial support for the parent who has less physical responsibility.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

How to Modify Child Custody Arrangements

How to Modify Child Custody Arrangements

Parents may be able to mutually agree upon a parenting plan for their children. Sometimes, though, a judge has to decide how child custody will be handled before a divorce is finalized. No matter how or when the decisions were made, there may come a time that parents have to modify child custody arrangements.

Making the Decision

Parenting Plans and child custody arrangements typically are made keeping the best interests of the child in mind. But people and circumstances change. Some of the common reasons for altering a child custody arrangement include:

  • Refusing to allow the non-custodial parent to contact or visit the children;
  • Putting the children in an unsafe or dangerous environment;
  • Relocation of the non-custodial parent.

In addition, children may ask for a change in custody. Children over the age of 12 may be permitted to tell the judge who they want to live with.

Once one or both parents decide that changes should be made, the court becomes involved.

Filing the Paperwork

The parent requesting the change will file a Request for Order with the court. An additional form – the child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application Attachment is optional but may be helpful. Remember that you need to show a significant change in circumstances or some compelling reason to modify child custody arrangements.

After filing the Request for Order, you will be given a date to appear in court or to meet with a mediator. Court proceedings can be complicated, especially if the parents are unable to reach their own agreement.

Attending a Hearing

If parents are unable to arrive at a revised custody plan through mediation, they may have to appear in court. The judge may take limited testimony but may rely heavily on the documents filed with the clerk. After making a decision, the judge signs an order altering the terms of the custody arrangement.

It’s Possible to Modify Child Custody Arrangements

However, the court must see significant reasons to change custody before doing so. As always, California courts consider the best interests of the child in making any decisions.

To discuss how to modify child custody arrangements, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Passports and Two-Parent Consent Law

Passports and Two-Parent Consent Law

Travelling with a child can be difficult. Plans may have to be arranged around the child’s schedule and, of course, your luggage may be stuffed with kid-friendly items. Taking a trip outside the United States requires even more planning, especially if the child needs a passport. Divorced parents may find it difficult to get passports for their children due to the Two-Parent Consent Law.

The Two-Parent Consent Law

This law, found in 22 U.S.C. 213n and 22 C.F.R. 51.28, applies to a parent seeking a passport for minors who are age 16 or younger. Under the Two-Parent Consent Law, both parents or guardians must apply for the passport and provide evidence of parentage or legal guardianship.

If only one parent applies, that parent must provide at least one legal document showing the parent has sole custody of the child such as:

  • A birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States, or Certification of Report of Birth giving the name of only the parent applying for the passport.
  • A death certificate for the non-applying parent.
  • An adoption decree naming only one parent for the child.
  • An order granting sole custody to the applying parent.
  • An order terminating legal custody of the other parent.

When parents are granted joint custody, both parents generally must apply for the passport. For humanitarian or emergency reasons, sometimes the circumstances need a different approach.

Exceptions to the Two Parent Consent Rule

When a parent cannot supply the documentation listed above, a passport may still be issued if the parent can submit:

  • A court order that allows the parent to travel with the child;
  • A written statement or notarized written consent from the other parent stating that the other parent cannot give consent for the child’s passport.

The applying parent also may submit a statement explaining any exigent or special circumstances that would allow a passport to be issued with the consent of only one parent.

Will the Two-Party Consent Law Derail Your Travel Plans?

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities. Our new Beverly Hills office is opening soon.
I’m Afraid My Spouse Will Take Our Children Out of State. What Can I Do?

I’m Afraid My Spouse Will Take Our Children Out of State. What Can I Do?

Child custody is complicated. Between physical custody, legal custody, joint custody, sole custody – it’s easy to get confused. However, doing what’s best for the children should be at the forefront of every discussion about child custody. It’s typically best for children to live near both parents, whenever practical, to maintain and foster their relationships. But what happens when it becomes necessary to relocate? Many parents struggle to decide where their children will live and whether the other parent can move the children out of state.

Before the Parenting Plan … and After

Address relocation issues in your parenting plan, if possible. Disagreements about where the children can live may be worked out with a mediator. As always, if parents are unable to agree, the court will decide where the children will live and with whom.

After a parenting plan is put in place, however, things may change. One parent may want to move children to another city or even out of state. Sometimes it is necessary to put the issue before a judge.

Courts try to make all decisions keeping the best interests of the children in mind, and relocation issues are no different. The judge may consider some of the following issues when deciding whether children can be moved out of state:

  • Will the move alter visitation?
  • Will the move hurt the relationship between the child and the parent who is not moving?
  • What type of custody arrangements are already in place?

The parenting plan can be changed by agreement or by court order. The form of custody granted to the parent seeking to move may influence a judge’s decisions about relocation.

The Type of Custody May Matter

Child custody generally falls into these categories:

  • Joint legal custody,
  • Sole legal custody,
  • Joint physical custody, and
  • Sole legal custody.

A parent with sole physical custody may move the children unless the other parent proves that the move will harm the children in some way. For example, Hannah wants to move her children from California to Connecticut to be closer to her family. Jonah, the children’s father, has a very close relationship with his children, and he filed a motion to stop the move. Because of that relationship and the children’s ties to the community, the judge ruled in Jonah’s favor. Hannah was free to move out of state but was not allowed to take the children.

When the parents have joint physical custody, the parent seeking to relocate must prove that the move is beneficial to the children. Let’s say Hannah and Jonah have joint legal custody. Hannah wants to move, but Jonah objects. The burden is on Hannah to prove that the move is good for the kids.

It’s Complicated. We Can Help.

Moving children out of state can be difficult. You need an advocate to help you understand your options.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

FAQs About Parenting Plans

FAQs About Parenting Plans

California courts are strongly “pro-child.” Typically, decisions are based on the best interests of any children involved in a divorce or legal separation. Let’s look at a few questions frequently asked about parenting plans.

What is a parenting plan?

When a divorcing couple have children, they need to agree on how to care for them. Also called a custody and visitation agreement, the parenting plan sets out how physical and legal custody will be handled.

To avoid misunderstandings, a parenting plan should include specific provisions about each parent’s responsibilities and obligations. For example, a plan might state who will handle:

  • Health care and medical treatments,
  • School, educational, and extracurricular activities,
  • Exchanging the children after a visit,
  • Parenting styles,
  • Child care; and
  • Travel and relocation.

Courts look for a plan that provides the best possible solution for the children.

What if parents can’t agree on a parenting plan?

The first step is mediation. Both parents work on sample plans with their attorneys, then present their proposed parenting plans to the mediator. Although mediation is not legally binding, mediators often facilitate agreements between disputing parents.

However, sometimes mediation fails. If so, the couple schedule a hearing where their parenting plans can be presented for the judge’s consideration. The court renders a decision, sometimes with the help of independent counselors or the mediator.

What happens after we sign the parenting plan?

When parents are able to agree, then they simply submit their parenting plan to the court. Unless the judge sees something wrong with the plan – something that is not in the best interests of the children – the plan usually is approved.

Our parenting plan was approved. What now?

Follow the parenting plan. If you find that sections are not working, talk to your attorney about adjustments.

Any of the following behaviors may violate the terms of your parenting plan:

  • Trying to turn your child against his or her other parent,
  • Being late when it is time to return your child after visitation,
  • Refusing to allow visitation at all, or
  • Refusing to handle educational or healthcare decisions as agreed.

When you violate your parenting plan, you are violating a court order. A judge may hold you in contempt of court. The consequences could be as simple as attending a parenting class or as severe as jail time.

Final Thoughts

The driving principle behind a parent plan is to act in the best interests of the child. Make sure your parenting plan is right for your children.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call us at 415-293-8314 to talk about your divorce. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities. We are opening a Beverly Hills office soon.

Regaining Custody of Your Children

Regaining Custody of Your Children

Child custody may be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce proceeding. Judges may be called upon to make unpopular decisions. Sometimes, children are removed from a parent. If this has happened to you, read on to learn more about regaining custody of your children.

Address the Problems That Caused You to Lose Custody

Termination of custody and visitation sometimes occurs because of alleged abuse or neglect. Typically, parents are allowed some time to fix whatever conditions brought about the potential termination of their rights. Children usually are returned to parents who are successful at addressing their problems.

Under most circumstances, children will be removed from a home where someone living in the home is a registered sex offender. A parent in this situation must prove to the court that the children are not in danger. This can be difficult to do because California courts are serious about protecting children.

Carefully review all custody orders. The court probably spelled out any requirements that you must meet to regain custody. Complying with the court orders means you are more likely to get your children back.

Request Custody and Visitation

There are steps you can take if you have lost custody and visitation.

  • File a motion with the court clerk.
  • Request a hearing on your motion.
  • Serve a copy of motion to the other parent involved that includes a copy of the notice of hearing.
  • Attend your hearing and present the reasons you should regain custody. Present evidence showing you have complied with court orders or addressed the problems that caused you to lose custody.

Sometimes a court will allow visitation, possibly supervised. Using your visitation rights to rebuild and maintain your relationship with your child may convince the court to reinstate your child custody arrangements. Most importantly, consult with an attorney who has experience with child custody cases.

Learn More About How to Regain Custody of Your Children

It’s not easy, but it can be done. Remember, though, that the judge will only return custody to you if it appears to be in the best interests of the child.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
What Is Joint Legal Custody?

What Is Joint Legal Custody?

Zach and Mary decide to divorce after 14 years of marriage. Of course, they are concerned about how their three children will handle the stress of divorce. Both parents want custody, but realize they need a plan. As they learn more about how custody is decided, they have questions. For example, they aren’t sure what joint legal custody entails.

Types of Child Custody

In a divorce proceeding, the term “child custody” refers to the care, control, and maintenance of a child or children. However, there are two different types of custody:  physical and legal. Each type of custody can be sole or joint. Sometimes a judge may even award one parent sole physical custody of a child, but joint legal custody. As always, the judge will decide what’s best for the child when finalizing child custody arrangements:

  • Sole Custody. A parent with sole physical custody decides where a child lives. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, he or she will make all legal decisions related to a child’s health, education, and welfare. The non-custodial parent may have visitation rights as ordered by the court.
  • Joint Custody. Parents may share legal or physical custody under joint custody arrangements. Physical custody still relates to arrangements regarding the physical presence of the child. Legal custody still refers to the child’s health, education, and welfare. The difference, of course, is that each parent has at least some say in what happens with the child.

So, how does joint legal custody vary from sole legal custody and joint/sole physical custody?

Joint Legal Custody

Parents who are given joint legal custody generally are required to make decisions together. However, if a parent refuses to work with the other parent, they may both end up back in court. That’s not the ideal situation for anyone.

Sometimes Sharing is Impossible.

A judge may give one parent sole legal custody if:

  • parents are unable to work together
  • one person is considered an unfit parent
  • one of the parents is just not capable of making legal decisions
  • it appears that it’s not in the children’s best interests for both parents to share legal custody

Final Thoughts.

Zach and Mary found it difficult to agree on a parenting plan. Both wanted maximum time with their kids. Both wanted to make all decisions. The judge presiding over their case sent to them mediation, where they came up a parenting plan that worked for the children. They were able to see that joint custody could work as long as they continued to communicate and put their children first.

Acting in the best interest of the child is the driving principle behind a parent plan. Make sure custody issues are handled while negotiating your marital settlement agreement.

To discuss your child custody concerns with an experienced California attorney, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.

How to Help Your Kids Thrive During a Divorce

How to Help Your Kids Thrive During a Divorce

Children feel a whole range of emotions during a divorce. They may be too young or too damaged to express and deal with those emotions, though. There are ways, however, that you and your ex-spouse can help your kids thrive, even in the middle of a divorce proceeding.

Talk to your children … and let them know they can talk to you.

Reassurance is important. Tell them the divorce is not their fault and that they are still loved. Since communication is a two-way street, make sure they know they can talk to you about anything, any time.

Don’t badmouth the other adults in their young lives.

You may have some pretty strong feelings about your child’s other parent right now. Those hard feelings may extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even family friends. Try hard to keep bad thoughts to yourself or only vent to another adult when your children are not around. Letting off steam might help you feel better, but it won’t help your children cope.

Coordinate with their other parent.

Parents who are divorcing need to complete a written agreement called a parenting plan. Use this opportunity to calmly coordinate rules, discipline, school events, holiday and other things your children need to feel safe, loved, and protected.

Don’t interfere with scheduled visitation.

Punishing your children because you’re mad at your ex is never a good idea. The only reason to withhold visitation is if you think your child is being endangered. Even then, you need to alert your attorney or the court that there’s a problem.

Watch for warning signs.

Children deal with stress in different ways. Watch for any indication that your son or daughter is not handling the divorce well. Unchecked anxiety, anger, depression, and the like can lead to long-term damage. If your child is behaving oddly, losing interest in activities, or their grades are slipping, seek help for them.

Keep Their Best Interests in Mind.

Divorce is hard on everyone involved. Even though you’re hurting and stressed out right now, remember that your children have needs, too.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience with divorce and child custody matters. In fact, Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist. Please feel free to call us at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Cost, including San Francisco, Marin County, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
My Husband Got Custody of Our Kids. Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

My Husband Got Custody of Our Kids. Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

Some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions to make during a divorce involve children. Who will provide a home for the kids and money to care for them? Regardless of where the kids live, both parents are expected to be financially responsible for their children. This expectation may lead some people to question why they have to pay child support if the other parent has physical custody. 

California courts require every parent to be financially responsible for their children.

Child support is the law, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to calculate. Courts will consider several factors when calculating who should pay child support:

  • Both parents’ financial circumstances,
  • The children’s needs,
  • Whether additional support is needed for special expenses, child care costs, etc. and
  • The amount of time each parent has physical responsibility for the children.

Custody arrangement can make a difference.

“Time-share” – the amount of time the parent spends with the children – typically takes three forms:

  • One parent spends more time caring for children. The other parent usually pays child support. Occasionally, though, there’s a great discrepancy between the parents’ income. Generally, the parent with the greater income will pay child support to the parent with lower income. This scenario can be tricky. It is best to consult a family law attorney.
  • Parents spend about the same amount of time with the kids. The parent with the higher income may pay some child support to the other parent.
  • Parents of multiple children ‘split’ up the children. For example, in a family with two children, one child lives with mom and one child lives with dad. Child support may be paid depending on the parents’ income or special needs.

What’s best for the children?

It really comes down to taking care of the children’s needs, regardless of their address. Maybe you have questions about child support or are considering separate or divorce. Give us a call at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Cost, including San Francisco, Marin County, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
Can I Move Out of State with My Child?

Can I Move Out of State with My Child?

Despite everyone’s best efforts, child custody issues arise. Even in cases where the court and parents have agreed on what’s in the best interests for the children, life changes. At some point after a divorce, one parent may want or need to move out of state.

What California law says about move aways.

According to California Family Code 7501:

(a) A parent entitled to the custody of a child has a right to change the residence of the child, subject to the power of the court to restrain a removal that would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to affirm the decision in In re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25, and to declare that ruling to be the public policy and law of this state.

The decision in In re Marriage of Burgess grants a parent the presumptive right to move, not an absolute right. This means the court may or may not allow you to move. The court will consider factors in addition to your custody order before granting or denying your request to move away.

How much time do you usually spend with your child?

The court may consider how much time each parent spends with the child when deciding a move away case. The parent who has physical custody of a child more than the other parent may be more likely to win a move away case. Whether the time spent together is quality time may also influence the court’s decision.

Will the move be detrimental to your child?

Is the move being made for a legitimate reason that may benefit the child? Moving closer to extended family, living in a better neighborhood, and attending a better school are good reasons to move. Moving to be closer to your boyfriend or your favorite beach are not.

However, moving can be tough on a child’s relationship with his or her non-custodial parent, but courts often don’t consider that harmful enough to deny the motion to leave. However, if any of the child’s rights will be restricted due to the move, the court may refuse to allow the parent to move away.

Do you have a plan?

If you’re thinking of moving away, you need to plan ahead. It can be months before a judge grants or denies your request to move.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are highly experienced with child custody issues. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.