Category Archives: Child Custody

How to Handle Holidays in Your Parenting Plan

How to Handle Holidays in Your Parenting Plan

Every year, Jessie’s parents fought over where she would spend Thanksgiving. Ethan had the opposite problem – both his parents preferred to spend holidays on exotic (and childless) vacations. Sheila hated talking to her ex-husband about the kids’ holidays, so she unhappily capitulated year after year. If you are in the process of getting divorced, know that it’s best to handle holidays in your parenting plan and not on a holiday-to-holiday basis.

Two Major Topics, Many Choices

Parents must complete a parenting plan before finalizing their divorce. In a California divorce, parenting plans cover two major areas:

  • Time-Share – how the children’s time will be split between parents; and
  • Decision making – how decisions about the children’s health, education, and welfare will be handled by the parents.

That sounds fairly easy – until you think of how many topics fall under each major area. For example, Time-Share involves a child’s regular schedule as well as how their time will be spent during holidays.

Scheduling Holiday Time

Trying to decide where your kids will spend Christmas and their birthdays can be stressful. Both parents may want the same days and times. Flexibility and spontaneity work sometimes, but the best time to plan your holidays is when you’re preparing your parenting plan.

In fact, parents prepare and attach a form titled “Children’s Holiday Schedule Attachment” to their parenting plan before submitting it for court approval. The form includes major holidays, as well as:

  • Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12),
  • President’s Day,
  • Spring Break (first and second halves),
  • Columbus Day,
  • Halloween,
  • Veterans Day (November 11),
  • Thanksgiving weekend,
  • December/January School Break, and
  • Birthdays, including child, mom, and dad.

Other options include:

  • Times. For example, the child may be with the mom from 8 pm Christmas Eve until noon Christmas Day.
  • Every Year. For instance, the child may spend Thanksgiving with Dad every year instead of alternating with Mom.
  • Even-Numbered/Odd-Numbered Years. Mom may have the kids on Christmas on even-numbered years, with Dad taking them on odd-numbered years. So, Dad would have them in 2019 and Mom in 2020.

According to the form, the child’s holiday schedule takes priority over the normal parenting schedule. For example, Dad may have the kids every weekend. However, if Christmas falls on Sunday, and it is Mom’s year according to the holiday schedule, then the kids go with Mom.

Scheduling Holidays in Your Parenting Plan Doesn’t Have to Be A Hassle

Do your homework when preparing your plans. If disagreements arise later, know that help is available from the courts if necessary.

Please call us 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 Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

You Might Need an Emergency Child Custody Order

You Might Need an Emergency Child Custody Order

Ava loved the fact that her husband, Henri, was from France. She felt their son could benefit from being involved in more than one culture. However, her enthusiasm faded when Henri filed for divorce. She feared he would take their son to France where he might live beyond the control of California courts. Liam faced a problem a little closer to home. He learned that his wife was partying in clubs all night while their two-year-old daughter slept in the car. Liam has also noticed unexplained bruises on his little girl. Fearing for his daughter’s safety, he looked to the court system. Both Ava and Liam may need the same protection: an emergency child custody order.

Child Custody and the Divorce Process

Who gets the children is often a hot topic during a divorce. The hope is that parents will do what is best for their children, but this is not always the case.

During a divorce, parents work out a parenting plan, and custody is decided. If parents can’t agree, a judge will assign custody. Of course, negotiating a plan takes times. Sometimes one parent may have to move quickly to protect his or her children.

Grounds for Requesting an Emergency Child Custody Order

It can be difficult to get this kind of order. While California judges always focus on the best interests of the child, they also cannot hand out emergency orders for no reason.

The primary reason for requesting an emergency child custody order is:

“A situation has occurred, or may occur, where it is in the best interest of the child that the court make immediate orders.”

In Ava’s case, she needs to stop her husband from spiriting their son out of the country. Liam needs to stop his wife from neglecting or abusing their child. Neither situation can wait, so they ask for emergency child custody orders. The court may grant each a temporary order that takes effect immediately. However, the court will schedule a hearing before granting a more permanent order.

Call Immediately if You Need an Emergency Child Custody Order

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including ex parte hearings and emergency child custody 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.
The Impact of Extracurricular Activities on Visitation

The Impact of Extracurricular Activities on Visitation

Between Jiu-jitsu, football, and violin lessons, some parents may spend hours every week taking their children to extracurricular activities. The job is even more difficult for divorced parents who may struggle to meet the requirements of their parenting agreement. Parents may disagree on the scheduling of activities, the cost, or even just the type of activity. One parent may feel their child should be in a sports program, while the other leans toward robotics or coding. But how important are these activities? Will extracurricular activities affect visitation for children of divorced parents?

Extracurricular Activities Are Important

Little League, Girl Scouts, and chess club are fun activities that also provide some crucial benefits, including:

  • Better academic performance,
  • Higher self-esteem,
  • Improved social skills,
  • Goalsetting,
  • Teamwork,
  • Problem-solving and sharper analytical skills, and
  • More impressive college applications.

However, coordinating math club or gymnastics with an ex-spouse is sometimes not easy.

Time with Your Parents Is Important, Too

How will one parent feel when the other parent schedules an extracurricular activity during their visitation time? Typically, the parent who has custody of the child at the time takes the child to scheduled activities. Problems can arise, especially when ‘fun’ activities’ coincide with a parent’s work or activity schedule. Sometimes a parent feels the activity is not important in their child’s life.

Some of these difficulties can be ironed out in one important divorce document: the parenting plan.

Custody, Visitation, and Parenting Agreements

The type of custody arrangement reached in divorce affects school and extracurricular activities. In a California divorce, custody falls into several categories:

  • Physical Custody has to do with where the child lives. Joint physical custody means the child lives with both parents. However, sole or primary custody means that the child lives with one parent and visits the other parent.
  • Legal Custody relates to the important decisions that parents make for their children. Parents with joint legal custody share the right to make decisions about the children. However, a parent with sole legal custody handles decision-making on their own.

Does one parent have sole legal custody of the children? If so, that parent has the final say on extracurricular activities. However, the non-custodial parent can object or ask for changes to the parenting agreement or visitation schedule.

What Impact Extracurricular Activities Have on Visitation Depends

If parents amicably agree on the when and how of extracurriculars, they can avoid having a judge make decisions for them.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, child custody, and child visitation. 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.

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.