Category Archives: Child Custody

Settling School Issues with an Ex-Spouse

Settling School Issues with an Ex-Spouse

Getting the ‘right’ education can make a big difference in a person’s life. However, who decides what is ‘right’ for the children of divorced parents? It’s great when both parents are active in a child’s life, but how do you handle school issues with an ex-spouse who disagrees with your educational choices?

Look to Your Custody Agreement to Settle School Issues

In California divorces, parents must agree on a custody and visitation agreement before finalizing their divorce. When parents cannot agree, a judge will make the decisions for them. Either way, somewhere there is a document that addresses school issues, even if only to state which parent makes educational decisions for the children. Review your parenting plan for clues. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Who has physical custody of the children?
  • Who has legal custody of the children?
  • Is the custody sole or joint?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll have a better idea of how to proceed.

Understand How Custody Works

Joint legal custody means that both parents have the right and responsibility to make certain important decisions for their children. This includes education. If you and your ex-spouse have joint legal custody, you’ll need to work out the school issues together. Sole legal custody means that one parent makes all the important decisions for the kids. If you have sole legal custody, you can handle educational matters by yourself. If your spouse has sole legal custody, he or she has the right to settle school issues. However, with either type of custody, one parent can ask for court intervention if necessary.

Get Help Communicating If Necessary

Your first inclination may be to ‘deny, deny, deny’ when your ex-spouse requests anything. But concerns about your children’s education should be considered carefully. In some cases, you may need help discussing school issues with your ex-spouse. Discuss the situation with your attorney. You may need to attend mediation or schedule a court hearing if you and your ex-spouse are unable to reach an agreement about your children’s education.

It IS Possible to Settle School Issues with an Ex-Spouse

It may be best for everyone if you and your ex-spouse work out any school issues that you have. Just keep the best interests of the children in mind. California courts certainly will. 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 Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
How and When to Get an Ex Parte Order

How and When to Get an Ex Parte Order

After you file your divorce petition, it may take months to iron out all the details. In some cases, though, the person filing for divorce faces serious issues that cannot wait that long. For example, Sandy’s husband had a violent temper that caused him to lash out at their home and at her. Ben knew he was safe from his wife, Lori, but feared for their children. Finally, Maria’s husband hid their car from her, although she needed it to get to work. Fortunately, courts may provide emergency assistance for situations like these through ex parte orders.

How to Get an Ex Parte Order

The simple answer is that you file a motion with the court asking for the relief that you need as soon as possible. However, each county in California may have its own rules and procedures for obtaining an ex parte order. Failing to follow the rules may cause your motion to be denied. You may file a Temporary Emergency Orders (Ex Parte) (Form FL-305) to request certain temporary emergency court orders. While this form may be used throughout the state, you will need to check the rules for the county in which you file for additional information. Hearings often are heard within 24 hours of filing the request for an ex parte order, at which time a judge will hand down a ruling on your request for Temporary Emergency Orders.

When an Ex Parte Order Is Appropriate

Sometimes the filing spouse may need to get an issue before a judge as quickly as possible because an emergency exists. In fact, the filing party may request an ex parte action for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The spouse who filed the divorce case may be in danger.
  • A child involved in the divorce case may be in danger.
  • The filing party needs temporary use of a marital asset.
  • The filing spouse feels that his or her property might be destroyed or damaged by the responding spouse.
Talk to an attorney immediately if you feel an issue related to your divorce is an emergency.

It’s Complicated.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including ex parte orders. 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.
4 Factors Considered During Child Custody Discussions

4 Factors Considered During Child Custody Discussions

When parents divorce, some of the most important decisions they face relate to their children. For example, Max and Becca didn’t disagree about much during the early stages of their divorce. However, both were a bit stymied when it came to the kids. They weren’t sure how to prepare a parenting plan that the judge would approve. Let’s look at four of the most important factors considered during child custody discussions.

Health & Safety of Child

Each parent generally is expected to play a role in the health and safety of the child. In fact, the judge may consider this a primary concern when reviewing a parenting plan or making custody decisions. One way to promote the health and safety of a child is to remember that children generally are more likely to thrive when parents:
  • Avoid physical violence toward each other or the child;
  • Agree on living arrangements and rules;
  • Provide a safe and appropriate environment for visiting with family and friends.
A parenting plan usually includes agreements on how to handle medical issues, including doctor visits, vaccinations, health insurance, and emergency medical treatments.

Relationship with Family

Another area of critical importance is the child’s relationship with his or her parents and extended family. A judge may scrutinize a parent’s interactions with the child before assigning joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole physical custody. Judges generally like both parents to be involved in caring for a child. Signs of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence taint a child’s relationship with the abusing parent. California divorce courts put the child’s best interests before the parent’s need to be with their child.

Stability of Living Environments

While it’s important to consider how well a child and parent get along together, the living environment plays a big role in deciding custody:
  • A parent who allows unsafe or illegal activities in the home may receive limited custody and visitation.
  • Parents who move frequently and erratically may not be providing the best home environment.

Overall Best Interests of Child

California law requires a divorce court judge to make custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the child. During child custody discussions, courts may look at the big picture. For example, a child may love both parents, but the court grants sole custody to one parent or requires supervised visits with the other parent. This may occur because one parent has put the child at risk or ignored the child’s basic needs of health, safety, home, and family.

Make Your Child Custody Discussions Count

Start with retaining an attorney who understands complex child custody arrangements., as does Judy Burger who is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. To discuss how to handle property and divorce issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
How to Coordinate Summer Vacations with Your Ex

How to Coordinate Summer Vacations with Your Ex

Sophia had planned a great June vacation with her son, Noah. Afterwards, he was heading off to a two-week summer camp in the Rockies. However, Noah’s father, Jack, invited him on a trip to Europe for the exact same time period. Sophia was exasperated because the invitation conflicted with her plans and, more importantly, did not comply with their parenting plan. Jack was supposed to take Noah in July and August, not June. Sophia and Jack had to find a way to coordinate summer vacations. First, they could look back over the arrangements they made during their divorce.

The Parenting Plan

A divorcing couple with kids negotiates a parenting plan as part of their settlement.  It’s sometimes called a custody and visitation agreement because a big part of the plan involves custody and visitation. In fact, parenting plans typically spell out who will have the children at certain times and for how long. Holidays and summer vacations usually are an important part of the negotiations that go into the parenting plan. After parents reach an agreement, a judge signs a custody order binding the parents to the agreement. Does this mean the custody and visitation agreements will never change?

Modifications to the Plan?

It is possible to negotiate changes to a visitation schedule. This may require the court’s approval in certain circumstances. However, the parents may agree on a new way of handling visitation without court intervention. Sophia and Jack share legal custody of Noah, but Sophia has primary physical custody. Most of the time, they have no trouble adjusting their visitation schedule. This time is different, though. Jack’s work schedule has changed, and he would like to have more time with Noah over the summer. They may want to negotiate a modification of their parenting plan and have it approved by the court. But Sophia and Jack’s most important consideration should be what is right for Noah.

What Should You Focus on When You Coordinate Summer Vacations with Your Ex?

What course of action serves the best interests of your child? Maybe there’s no compelling reason to deny your ex’s summer vacation plans. However, if you feel your children may be in danger or harmed in some way by those plans, discuss your options with a divorce attorney immediately. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including child visitation plans and modifications. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Tips for Helping Kids Survive Divorce

Tips for Helping Kids Survive Divorce

If you are getting divorced and have children, you may question how to tell your kids about the divorce. They may need help learning to cope with all the changes in their lives. Parents, and other adults who love the children, may need tips on helping kids survive divorce. We will look at few tips in this article.

Recognize Stages Kids Go Through

After telling your children about the divorce, watch for the following emotions and behavior:

  • Denial – refusing to believe their parents are separating.
  • Anger – misbehaving and acting out because of the disruption to their lives.
  • Depression – feeling overwhelmed or helpless.
  • Bargaining – trying to get parents to reconcile.
  • Acceptance – beginning to heal and get back to normal.

At every stage, parents may have the opportunity to help their children cope.

Parents Can Make Transitions Easier – Or Far More Difficult

The parents’ behavior goes a long way toward helping kids learn to survive and thrive during a divorce. With that in mind:

  • Don’t use your children as pawns or messengers.
  • Do talk positively as much as possible.
  • Don’t talk bad about your children’s other parent.
  • Do encourage your children to talk about how they feel.
  • Don’t fight with each other in front of the kids.
  • Do communicate cordially and coordinate visitation.
  • Don’t forget to pick up and return the kids at the scheduled dates and times.
  • Do show your children that you love them.

In addition, negotiate your marital settlement and parenting plan in good faith. Try to come up with a plan that helps your kids survive divorce.

Courts Pay Attention to Children’s Needs

Laws, statutes, and regulations cannot eliminate feelings of rage, revenge, unworthiness, and grief. It may be difficult to control your emotions and actions. However, judges will assess how parents relate to their children when deciding child custody arrangements. Courts are required to keep the children’s best interests in mind, even when the parents struggle with addressing their kids’ feelings along with their own.

Helping Kids Survive Divorce Is a Top Priority

It’s not always easy, though. Having an attorney help with a divorce may ease some of your tension.

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.
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.