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.

What Is Joint Legal Custody?

What Is Joint Legal Custody?

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

Types of Child Custody

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

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

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

Joint Legal Custody

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

Sometimes Sharing is Impossible.

A judge may give one parent sole legal custody if:

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

Final Thoughts.

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

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

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

Signs That a Parenting Plan is Not Working

Signs That a Parenting Plan is Not Working

Ask most any parent going through a divorce, and he or she will tell you that the welfare of the kids is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, it does not always play out that way. Kids are human beings, just like adults, and they will react both positively and negatively to various circumstances. It is important for divorcing parents to develop a good parenting plan, and then pay attention. Given the human variable, children may not always fare well under even the best of plans.

An important thing to remember is that children have not reached maturity. As they go through developmental stages, the parenting plan may need to be adjusted. For example, visitation by a non-custodial parent for an infant will be much different than for an adolescent. Along the way after a divorce, parents should be watchful for signs of distress in their children and recognize that it looks different depending on age.

An improperly parented and cared for infant may cry excessively, eat inconsistently or not fully, and not sleep properly. This can lead to growth and development problems such as being underweight and general malaise. Divorced parents who witness these tendencies may want to consider whether their care arrangements are causing any of the problems.

As a child grows during infancy, he becomes more aware of his surroundings and the people in his life. This becomes more relevant as a child reaches the toddler stage. Stress in children at these stages can, in addition to crying, include abnormal attachment to a parent or caregiver, sleep and appetite issues, and attention-getting behavior. Toddlers will begin to express concerns orally, asking about the other parent, refusing instructions, and making demands.

As children get older and start to have interests beyond the home, stress resulting from parenting issues will take other forms. Kids may demonstrate anti-social behavior with peers in school, clubs, and sporting activities, single out one parent for blame, and withdraw from others at home and school. As adolescence is approached, depression can be a sign of parenting issues, as well as aggressive behavior and confusion over loyalty to one parent or the other.

Adolescence can bring a whole host of behavioral problems to children that have nothing to do with a parenting plan. Therefore, it can be hard to discern whether parents are making mistakes. In addition to depression during this stage of development, suicidal thoughts may occur, as well as drug or alcohol use. While withdrawal is a common thing for adolescents, anxiety over parental issues may make it worse, so parents should be sensitive to whether that behavior can be connected to custody transitions or other events involving one parent or the other.

Parenting children is complicated even in the traditional nuclear home. All of the stress-related behaviors mentioned can occur in any family. For divorced parents, however, balancing the custody and care responsibilities for children naturally produces some level of stress. It is important to watch for signs of undue stress and adjust accordingly.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including complicated parenting plans. We can advise you about the many different issues that can impact the parenting of children after divorce. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.

Age-Appropriate Parenting Plans

Age-Appropriate Parenting Plans

For divorcing couples with children, perhaps the most important thing to address is a parenting plan. Property and money issues are usually more straightforward because they are assigned a value and appropriated according to legal standards. Deciding what is in the best interest of a couple’s children, however, is never easy.

A parenting plan must be established and approved by the court for the good of both the parents and the children. For the parents, it will define the respective roles to be played in the many and varied important issues involved in raising children. For the children, the plan will be critical to help them adjust to the effects of their parents divorcing. If handled poorly, that outcome can affect children for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a parenting plan is the age of each child. Infants, for example, need a consistent schedule for sleeping and eating. They also need physical comfort and bonding with the mother, particularly if being breast-fed. The non-custodial parent should visit on a regular schedule to also promote bonding.

Toddlers also need consistency in their environment, but the environment can be more flexible. Regular time with the non-custodial parent in their home is appropriate at this age, but the rules of each household should be the same for the child. If one parent has the primary parenting role, visits to the other parent should limited to 24 hours at a time. If shared custody is the plan, the time split should be limited to three days at a time.

Children at the pre-school age can adapt to longer periods away from a primary parent, again, with consistent rules in both households. Children at this age begin to need to know in advance when a change in location or caregiver is to occur. A sense of security is important at all points in a child’s developmental years, and at this age range, unexpected change can induce insecurity.

During the childhood years of 6 to 10 years of age, children begin to participate in a world outside the home and control of their parents. This can also cause insecurity, so it is ever more necessary for the parenting plan to provide a safe and secure home environment. Clear plans for time spent with each parent are important, as is the involvement of both parents in school and outside activities. Children need to feel supported by both parents in their school and other activities. This adds to their feelings of security and self-worth.

In pre-adolescence, children’s relationships with people outside the home increase and their time spent with parents starts to decrease. A child will begin to want variations in the parenting arrangement to accommodate his or her outside interests. It is fine for the child to have some say in when and where she will spend time, but it is important to demonstrate that the decision is still made by the parents, preferably together. Parents may need to sacrifice some of their time for the child to participate in outside activities.

The adolescent stage is when the parenting plan begins its descent, so to speak. Kids in this period are becoming more independent as they head for adulthood. They are increasingly in control of their schedules for school, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. Parents need to work together to allow this to occur while maintaining control. Children may try to play their parents off on one another to achieve a goal neither parent would otherwise approve. It is more important than ever for divorced parents to work together supervising adolescent children. At this age, ill-conceived actions by an unsupervised child can have dire consequences.

Obviously, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all parenting plan. The plan must be both rigid and flexible, depending on the needs of the children and the parents. The observations contained herein, however, can provide some insight as to a broad framework within which a plan can be refined.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including complicated parenting plans. We can advise you about the many different issues that can impact the parenting of children after divorce. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.

Additional Factors To Consider When Making a Parenting Plan

We recently discussed California’s requirement for parents to develop a parenting plan, also known as a “custody and visitation agreement” or a “time-share plan,” which is essentially a written agreement between parents detailing how much time the children will spend with each parent and a plan for making important decisions in the future about the child’s welfare and education. Many of the factors in a parenting plan will be obvious, others less so.  In this article we will draw your attention to some of the less than obvious factors to consider when developing your ideal parenting plan.  Some of these items may be extremely important to your family:
  1. Whether there will be regular visitation with grandparents or other extended family members, and if so, how often;
  2. Sleeping arrangements for children and parents, including the children’s or parents’ overnight guests;
  3. Instructions for administering medication;
  4. Dietary requirements or restrictions;
  5. Preferred methods of discipline;
  6. Acceptable methods and frequency of parent-child communication while the children are with the other parent;
  7. Parent-to-parent communication guidelines;
  8. Whether the children need both parents’ consent for piercings or body art;
  9. Responsibility for routine vaccinations, dental care, and medical care;
  10. Acceptable use of technology, including internet, social media, and cell phones;
  11. Curfews for each child and anticipated exceptions, if any;
  12. Acceptable ratings and genre for movies the children may watch;
  13. Acceptable ratings and genre for video games the children may use;
  14. Which extra-curricular/school/sporting events the children will participate in;
  15. Participation in church/synagogue/mosque activities.
These factors may be beyond the usual set of essentials suggested for your parenting plan, but depending on your family dynamics, could be troublesome if not decided ahead of time. The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can assist you in fighting for your rights and those of your children in a visitation or custody dispute in California.  Judy L. Burger is known for her aggressive representation of clients in high conflict cases in and around the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay areas.  If you are a parent with a visitation or custody issue, call us today to learn more about how we can help.  Call (916)631-1935 in the Sacramento area, or (415)293-8314 in the San Francisco Bay area, or contact us online via our confidential inquiry form