Category Archives: Child Custody

My Parenting Plan Isn’t Working. Can I Change It

My Parenting Plan Isn’t Working. Can I Change It?

Divorced parents still have a strong connection – through their children. In the midst of making decisions about schooling, vacations, and health care, moms and dads have to stick to their parenting plan. But what if that parenting plan isn’t working anymore?

Why Plans Come Unstuck

People’s lives change over time. Your divorce is living proof of this.

Adults may change jobs, buy or sell homes, and learn more about their likes and dislikes. Friends and family members may move or even pass away. Many people face these changes and just adjust their lives accordingly.

As children grow, they also experience changes in activities, friends, and more. Parents might find that a visitation schedule no longer fits their children’s current list of activities – which, frankly, may change again in a year or so, depending on the kids’ ages.

Sometimes sticking to the parenting plan you negotiated during your divorce seems like trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole. If that’s the case, it may be time to make some adjustments. And there are ways to do just that.

And How to Fix a Parenting Plan That Isn’t Working

Before your divorce could be finalized, you and your co-parent had to negotiate and finalize your parenting plan. Thinking back on what your parenting plan includes can help you figure out if it’s time to alter it. That’s because parenting plans can be very specific or just have general guidelines.

First, review your plan to refresh your memory. If you and your ex-spouse are amicable, at least when it comes to your children, you may have inadvertently done things that are not spelled out in your plan. For example, you may have changed your spouse’s mid-week visitation day from Wednesday to Tuesday because little Johnny has soccer practice on Wednesday.

While it’s great to agree on alterations amicably, you must get the modifications in writing and file with the Court in order for it to become a Court order. It’s important to be clear about both parent’s obligations and responsibilities.

If changes are needed, talk to your divorce lawyer first. Your options for fixing your parenting plan include:

  • Negotiating a new agreement,
  • Meeting with a family mediator if you and your co-parent can’t agree on modifications, and
  • Asking a court to approve or order changes to the plan.

There’s no need to stick with a parenting plan that doesn’t fit anymore. Parenting plans are intended to help you help your kids, so consider fixing issues as they arise.

You Have Options When a Parenting Plan Isn’t Working.

Instead of increasing your stress levels—and, more importantly, your children’s – talk to an experienced California divorce attorney about making your plan work again.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Planning Your Children’s Summer Holidays with Your Ex-Spouse

Planning Your Children’s Summer Holidays with Your Ex-Spouse

Amanda likes to schedule her children’s summer holidays far in advance. This year, she plans to take them to a camp in Colorado for two weeks in July. In fact, she has already made the reservations. However, the children’s father, Jacob, disagrees with her plan. He was already planning stuff for the kids to do in July and has put down several non-refundable deposits. Since the divorce, Amanda and Jacob have handled their children’s schedules amicably for the most part. But planning your children’s summer holidays with your ex-spouse is no picnic, and they can’t get past their current disagreement. What can divorced parents who disagree about their children’s schedules do?

Look to the Parenting Plan

Parents must negotiate a parenting plan before their divorce can be finalized. There are good reasons for this.

Parenting plans make sure both parents know where they stand when it comes to some very important issues, including their children’s holidays. During negotiations, parents can stake out holidays that mean the most to them. Most people include their children’s summer schedule in their parenting plan.  

Under Amanda and Jacob’s parenting plan, Amanda should have the children in June and August. Jacob is supposed to have them the entire month of July. In the current scenario, Amanda’s planned vacation contradicts the negotiated parenting plan.

But Life Changes

Sometimes parenting plans no longer fit. Jacob and Amanda can speak to their attorneys about revising the plan at any time. The children’s summer plans can be changed, as well as any other holidays. If divorced parents cannot settle their disagreements, then mediation or court intervention might be necessary. However, it’s generally best for the children if parents can work out minor disagreements on their own.

Being proactive also can go a long way toward preventing disputes from blowing out of proportion. Had Amanda discussed her plans with Jacob before either of them made reservations or put down non-refundable deposits, they might have reached an amicable compromise. As it stands now, their disagreement could spoil the children’s summer holiday and create tension between the parents and their kids.

Are You and Your Ex-Spouse Fighting Over the Children’s Summer Holidays?

Hopefully not. But if you find yourselves at odds over any aspect of your parenting plan, talk to a family law attorney as soon as possible. And always remember that courts make decisions based on what is best for the children.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Understanding California Paternity Laws

Understanding California Paternity Laws

Divorce is fraught with sensitive issues. One of the most delicate involves the parenthood of children whose parents are divorcing. If you are thinking of ending your marriage – and you have kids — understanding California’s paternity laws is a must.

Why Paternity Matters

A child’s parentage affects child support, custody, and visitation. In some cases, courts will not sign orders related to a child when paternity is in question. Unless a person is legally established as the father or mother, that person has no rights or responsibilities regarding the child.

Confirming parentage is also important because children have the right to:

  • Financial support from mom and dad,
  • Legal documents that identify both parents,
  • An accurate birth certificate listing both mom and dad,
  • Insurance coverage,
  • Inherit from their parents, and
  • Receive social security, veteran’s benefits, and other government benefits based on their parents.

From an emotional standpoint, most people want to know who their father and mother are. Legally speaking, parentage makes a difference also.

When Courts Get Involved

Generally, children born during a marriage are assumed to be the husband and wife’s biological children. Family court judges usually establish parentage automatically.

However, fathers of children who are not married to the mother when the child was born must legally establish their paternity. Other situations where a man might establish parentage include:

  • The child was conceived while the father was trying to marry the mother or thought he was married to her.
  • The man agreed to serve as the father on the birth certificate or agreed to provide financial support to the child.
  • The man acted as if the child were his own, even though the child is not biologically his.

Family courts may be involved in any case where questions about a child’s paternity exist. For example, a married man who doesn’t believe he is the father of his wife’s child might ask for a determination in order to avoid responsibilities for someone else’s child.

What the Law Says

Some sections of the California Family Code specifically address the parent-child relationship. Frankly, most if not all of the laws related to parents apply to our topic. Before laws related to the rights and responsibilities of a parent take effect, parentage must be established.

We Can Help Decipher California Paternity Laws for You

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Issues that Complicate Divorce

Issues that Complicate Divorce

Many people consider divorce one of the most stressful life events. But not all divorces carry the same levels of stress. Some couples agree on any significant issues, which makes the resolution of their case fairly simple. Other soon-to-be-ex-spouses have a more difficult path because of one or more of the following issues that complicate divorce.

Spouse-Related Concerns Can Be Problematic

The issues you had with your husband or wife don’t stop when you file for divorce. Some may directly impact how your divorce proceeds.

  • Adultery. You do not need grounds for divorce in California. So, your final order or settlement might not be affected except for one thing: misuse of community funds. When one spouse uses marital property on a new love interest, courts might reimburse the innocent spouse in the form of a larger portion of the remaining marital funds.
  • Revenge. Some people complicate divorce by trying to take revenge because their spouse deeply hurt them. Vengeful feelings can delay settlement negotiations.
  • Pregnancy. This issue can complicate divorce because of questions about paternity. If the husband doubts the child is his, he might ask for paternity tests so the court can determine whether child support is appropriate.
  • Spousal Support. It is not easy to work out how much spousal support is due and how long it will be paid.

Married couples without children avoid some of the concerns that parents face.

Children Typically Complicate Divorce

It’s great when both parents love their children and want to care for them. But all that love can get lost in the shuffle of divorce papers.

  • Custody and Visitation. Before a judge can issue the final order, parents have to come up with a parenting plan. Custody can be contentious as couples navigate the four types of custody: sole physical, sole legal, joint physical, joint legal. They might use standard visitation schedules or personalize them to fit their child’s needs. However, working out children’s arrangements adds an extra layer of stress.
  • Child Support. Parents who do not have physical custody often pay monthly child support to the parent who does. Calculating the amount of support definitely can complicate divorce proceedings.

Fortunately, family court judges always try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children.

Finances Are Often a Contested Issue

Money matters to most people. Whether a divorce is amicable or contentious, spouses generally want to get what they deserve from the marital estate. Unfortunately, some issues complicate divorce to the point that settlement might be several years down the road.

  • Muddled Property Classification. Couples might have separate property, which they retain, or community property (which is split between the parties). However, it is not always easy to decide whether property is separate or community. For example, disagreements arise when one party brings substantial assets into the marriage but fails to keep them separate. Sometimes property is partially separate and partially community. It might take experts to untangle complications like these.
  • High-Net-Worth. Having more property means there’s more property to classify and divide. Again, the parties might need a financial expert’s careful analysis.
  • Business Assets. Some property is easier to appraise than others. Determining the value of a business is typically difficult and can quickly complicate divorce.

Divorce can be difficult, but you don’t have to go it alone.

When Issues Complicate Divorce, You Need Experienced Legal Counsel

Talk to a qualified California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings?

Children rarely, if ever, ask their parents to split up. Instead, they sometimes just become part of the collateral damage of divorce. Dealing with the court system during a divorce is stressful for everyone, including children. Even parents who try to do what’s best for their kids may wonder if courts will increase the tension by making children testify at divorce hearings. Let’s look at how this problem is handled in California.

Children, Divorce, and California Law

Each divorce is a little different. Sometimes court hearings are needed to address children’s needs related to custody and visitation.

Fortunately, California law does not require children to testify at divorce hearings. Likewise, California law does not expressly prohibit children from speaking in court. Generally, courts consider a child’s participation on a case-by-case basis. Age plays a part in the court’s decision, as set out in California Family Code Section 3042:

  • Children under 14 years of age might address the court if the court determines that it is appropriate and in the child’s best interests.
  • Children over 14 years of age will be allowed to testify unless the court decides testifying is not in the child’s best interests.

If the court decides the child cannot testify in open court, alternative methods include:

  • Allowing the child to participate in a child custody mediation,
  • Appointing a child custody evaluator,
  • Allowing people to present evidence on behalf of the child,
  • Admitting information provided by a child interview center or counselor.

The judge may also allow testimony in a closed courtroom or in the judge’s chambers.

But what happens when the court decides to allow kids to participate in hearings?

Requesting That Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Sometimes, people close to a child may learn that he or she wants to testify. According to the 2020 California Rules of Court, the following people must let the court know if this happens:

  • The minor child’s counsel
  • Evaluators
  • Investigators
  • Child custody recommending counselors.

Any party to the divorce or any party’s attorney may also let the court know that a child wants to testify. Also, judicial officers may ask whether children want to testify.

How the Courts Handle Children’s Testimony

Just because a court decides to let children testify at divorce hearings does not mean they stop protecting those children. Judges might appoint an attorney to represent the child during the testimony. Courts decide where the testimony will happen – in open court or in the judge’s chambers – and who will be present. In some cases, it is not in the child’s best interests to allow parents to attend. Finally, judges will protect children who testify at divorce hearings from harassment and inappropriate questioning.

You Need Experienced Advice When Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. 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 Southern California Coast.

Courts Consider These Factors When Deciding a Move-Away Case

Courts Consider These Factors When Deciding a Move-Away Case

Child custody arrangements often are delicate. Parents who might have gone through a difficult divorce now find themselves having to cooperate about raising their children. Disputes often arise. One difficult situation is when a custodial parent wants to relocate and take the kids with them. Sometimes the courts have to get involved, so it’s important to understand what factors courts consider when faced with a move-away case.

Details About the Move

In move-away cases, one of the most important factors is the reason the parent wants to relocate. Frivolous reasons for moving are unlikely to be approved. However, moving to be near family or to get a higher-paying job might sway the judge depending on the other factors considered in a move-away case.

The distance also plays a part. There’s a big difference between a parent that wants to move a few hundred miles away and a parent who wants to move across the country. Judges will consider the distance when making their decisions.

Custody-Related Factors

California courts award the following basic types of custody:

  • Legal custody, joint or sole; and
  • Physical custody, joint or sole.

Generally, a parent with sole physical custody has the “presumptive right” to move away. The other parent has to prove that the move will be detrimental to the children.

Courts will review how parents are handling their current custody and visitation before deciding a move-away case. The focus will be on maintaining stability and continuity in the custodial arrangements whenever possible.

Relationships Matter in a Move-Away Case

Another important factor considered when deciding a move-away case involves relationships:

  • Parents’ relationships with each other. Are the parents able to handle the current custody arrangements? More importantly, are they able to set aside their own wishes to put their children’s interests first?
  • The child’s relationship with each parent. Does the child have strong relationships with both parents? In some cases, the court may agree to let one parent move away from a parent who does not show any interest in maintaining relationships with the kids.

Because courts decide custody and visitation cases to support the best interests of the child, judges will consider the kids’ needs.

The Children Themselves

Ages might affect the judge’s decision. A younger child might have more trouble sustaining a relationship with a distant parent than an older child.

Do the children have strong community ties? If they live near close friends and participate in school, church, or extracurricular activities, judges might be reluctant to upend their lives.

Courts also look at whether children have any special health or educational needs. For example, relocating might be detrimental to a child currently undergoing treatment for a serious disease.

Finally, the children might have strong feelings about whether to move or not. Courts might take this into consideration when determining whether to grant a move-away case.

Handling Your Move-Away Case Can Be Exhausting. We Can Help.

The court’s decision generally comes down to one primary, all-important, fundamental principle: Doing what is in the child’s best interests.

Child custody issues are complicated. Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

what happens to the kids when the custodial parent dies

What Happens to the Kids When the Custodial Parent Dies?

The obituary stated that Carol Smith was survived by her two children, Peter and Cindy. What it didn’t mention was the difficult situation Peter, Cindy, and their loved ones faced. During her divorce from the children’s father, the court granted sole physical custody to Carol. Where the children would live, and with whom, could be uncertain now that Carol is gone. When a custodial parent dies, some hard decisions may lie ahead. Continue reading

homeschooling divorce and the coronavirus shut down

Homeschooling, Divorce, and the Coronavirus Shut Down

Most parents focus on keeping their children safe from harm and preparing them for the future. How you handle this during a divorce becomes complicated even without the extra concerns associated with a public health emergency. For example, education is essential, but so is protecting your kids from COVID-19. How can you educate your children without sending them to school?  We need to find ways for homeschooling, divorce, and the coronavirus shut down to co-exist peacefully for the sake of our children. Continue reading

Helping Kids Cope with divorce and COVID-19

Helping Kids Cope with Divorce and COVID-19

Modern life can be hectic, even without complications like divorce and COVID-19. Adult stress levels are at all-time highs right now. But what about our children? How are they handling major lifestyle changes? As a divorced or soon-to-be-divorced parent, helping kids cope with both divorce and COVID-19 may be a high priority. In this article, we offer some tips that may help you and your children. Continue reading

Where california stands on the national parents organization annual report card

Where California Stands on the National Parents Organization Annual Report Card

Most parents want the best for their children. However, when you are in the middle of a divorce, the ‘best’ thing for your children can be challenging to determine. For this reason, California Family Courts and lawyers use existing California laws to address child-related issues in a divorce proceeding. Groups like the National Parents Organization are dedicated to reforming child support and custody nationwide. In fact, they issue an annual report card that gives each state a grade based on how they handle parenting issues in divorce. Read on to learn more about how California fared in the most recent annual report – and why it matters. Continue reading