Category Archives: Visitation

May an Imprisoned Parent Have Child Visitation Rights in California?

May an Imprisoned Parent Have Child Visitation Rights in California?

Almost 200,000 kids in California have a parent in jail. This can create complex parenting and custody issues. One of the thorniest problems can be child visitation rights for the incarcerated parent. The parent’s crimes, existing relationship with the child and other parent, and the attitude of the Family Court all have an impact on decisions.

Under California law, any solution must ensure the child’s best interests. This means there can be many options and solutions. Family Law Attorney Judy L. Burger examines the question, “May an imprisoned parent have child visitation rights in California?”

Fast Facts About CA Child Custody and Incarceration

Although there are thousands of families with an incarcerated parent, there is much confusion surrounding this issue. Here are some fast facts about the topic:

  1. Incarceration does not automatically terminate your parenting rights. This can only happen in a limited number of situations.
  2. Imprisonment in California is not automatically considered abandonment of a child as it is in a few other states.
  3. Child custody and parental rights are different issues. The other parent or a grandparent may be granted custodial care of your child while you are in jail, but this does not surrender your parental rights.
  4. Incarceration does not abrogate you from your child support obligations. Making child support payments can help prove you have not abandoned your child and take your parental responsibilities seriously.
  5. You are still entitled to be present in any hearing regarding your parental rights and the matters relating to your child while in prison.  

Child Visitation Rights for CA Inmates

A Family Court may determine that the child’s best interests are met by granting visitation rights to an incarcerated parent. If so, there will likely be stringent guidelines to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. A California Family Law Attorney like Judy L. Burger can help the inmate negotiate the best possible conditions for visiting with their child.

A new law in California takes effect on January 1, 2024, to make it easier for incarcerated parents to obtain visitation rights with their children. The Keep Families Close Act now allows incarcerated parents to request a transfer to a facility near their families. Since 2019 data from the CDCR revealed that over 75% of incarcerated persons are located over 100 miles from their homes, this legislation is a welcome boon for inmates.

According to California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) data from 2019, over 75% of people in prisons are incarcerated more than 100 miles away from their homes  According to CDCR data from 2019, over 75% of people in prisons are incarcerated over 100 miles away from their homes. Parents who committed crimes against their child or other serious crimes are exempted.

Moreover, the Family Dignity Act will make the visitation process for families simpler by adopting digital technology. Families will now be able to scan and upload birth certificates so they can be digitally retrieved on each visit and not have to be brought every time.

Help with Child Custody, Support, and Visitation Matters in California

Child custody, support, and visitation issues with an incarcerated parent can be difficult and many factors can impact the court’s decisions. A parent sentenced to prison, currently in prison, or about to be released from prison will need counsel and representation from a CA Family Law Attorney. Similarly, the custodial parent or guardian of the child will need advice and representation to ensure the child’s best interests are ensured.

Certified Family Law Specialist Judy L. Burger and her team understand the specific challenges relating to an incarcerated parent and their family. We can help you work out the best arrangements for your family’s welfare and happiness during any phase of the parent’s jail tenure. Contact the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger by phone or online to request a confidential consultation.

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.

Can Grandparents Get Visitation Rights

Can Grandparents Get Visitation Rights?

Danny was confused by so many things going on in his life right now. His mom and dad were splitting up, which meant they would not all be living together as a family anymore. Danny and his mom had to move away from his school and friends. But one of the worst things was not being able to see his grandpa and grandma. His parents had some pretty loud arguments about something called visitation. Danny wondered if grandparents get visitation rights, too. Let’s look at what the law says about visitation rights, specifically for grandparents.

Children and Parenting Plans

Judges usually will not finalize a divorce where the couple has children until a parenting plan is complete. If the parents are unable to agree on a plan, the judge will do it for them.

Parenting plans cover:

  • What type of custody each parent will have (joint physical custody, for example),
  • When the children will spend time with each parent (visitation), and
  • How the parents will make decisions about their children.

For example, Danny’s parents both want full custody of him. But he has always spent more time with his mother than his father, and his father travels a lot for his business. The judge might consider giving Danny’s mom sole physical custody, with a generous visitation schedule for his dad. An alternative might be sole legal custody of Danny with joint physical custody. If his parents cannot agree on custody, the judge will do what’s best for Danny.

Parenting plans spell out visitation in detail, including where the child will spend holidays. For example, Danny might spend Christmas with dad one year and mom the next. Summer holidays might be split between the parents, or he might get to spend several months with his dad exclusively. Parenting plans should conform to what is best for the child’s individual needs as much as possible.

But what about grandparents? Are they included in the plan?

Grandparent Visitation Rights

Parents could let their child’s grandparents get visitation rights and add them to the visitation schedule. Sometimes one or both parents are not okay with granting access for some reason. There are ways for grandparents to see their grandkids if they are not in the parenting plan.

In California, grandparents can petition the court for reasonable visitation rights. However, the family court judge will need to see:

That there’s a pre-existing bond between the child and his or her grandparents.


That allowing grandparent visitation can be balanced with the parent’s rights to make decisions for their children.

The law states that courts may use their discretion to award reasonable visitation rights to “any other person having an interest in the welfare of the child.” So, courts could order that grandparents get visitation rights. However, either or both parents could ask the court to deny visitation.

The Final Word on Whether Grandparents Get Visitation Rights or Not

A family court judge will make the final decision on visitation, including allowing grandparent visitation. Doing what is right for the child will always be the default position for family court judges. Judges can and do deny access if visitation is not in the child’s best interests.

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 Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, 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.

Can Step-Parents Get Visitation Rights

Can Step-Parents Get Visitation Rights?

Kristen’s husband died when their two children were very young. Three years later, she married Brendan. Soon, Brendan became close to the children, attended ball games, and helped with homework. When Kristen filed for divorce, Brendan was left wondering if step-parents get visitation rights. Would he be allowed to participate in the kids’ lives even though he was not the children’s biological father?

California Visitation Rights, Generally

When parents divorce, they must prepare a parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval. Their plan describes how to split parenting time. Plans typically set out weekly visitation, as well as a holiday schedule.

Child custody also plays a part in visitation. The judge may award sole physical custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or joint legal custody. Depending on the type of custody, a child might live with a custodial parent and only visit the non-custodial parent.

But custody and visitation are usually decided between biological parents. What happens when a step-parent like Brendan asks for visitation.

Step-Parents Visitation and the Kids

Despite living with the children for years, Brendan is not legally considered to be their father. As such, he is not automatically qualified to be considered for custody or visitation.

However, step-parents may petition the court for visitation rights. In fact, California law states that:

“Children have a fundamental right to maintain healthy, stable relationships with a person who has served in a significant, judicially approved parental role.”

Courts may consider Brendan to have served as a parent, and award visitation rights to him. Generally, courts might grant visitation rights to anyone who has an interest in the child’s welfare.

Reasons to Deny Step-Parent Visitation Rights

California law specifically states that reasonable visitation rights will be granted, “if visitation by the step-parent is determined to be in the best interest of the child.” However, judges tend to deny step-parent visitation rights if they feel such visitation is not in the best interests of the child.

Call to Learn More About Step-Parents and Visitation Rights

If you are a step-parent who is fighting to visit your step-kids, contact us to learn more about your options. We can also help if you have reasons for blocking step-parent visitation with your children.

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

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

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.
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.