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.

Different Types of Child Visitation in California

Different Types of Child Visitation in CaliforniaDivorces and separations are replete with hot-button issues. Perhaps no issues are more frequently contested, however, than child custody and child visitation. In a prior blog, I discussed the different types and aspects of child custody. This blog will focus on visitation, which is typically granted to the parent who has the children less than half of the time.

A visitation order spells out how the child’s time will be managed. For example, a visitation order might address where a child would spend birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, major holidays, and summer break.

The California Legislature has declared that the primary concern of courts in making custody and visitation decisions is the “health, safety, and welfare of children.” However, an additional public policy of the state is “assur[ing] that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.” The law specifically “encourage[s] parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing” to meet this second goal, unless regular contact is not in the best interest of the children. Custody decisions are not made on the basis of a parent’s marital status, lifestyle, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.

There are four types of visitation orders in California: (1) reasonable visitation; (2) scheduled visitation; (3) supervised visitation; and (4) no visitation.

A reasonable visitation order leaves decisions about how the parents will share the children’s time largely to the parents. These orders provide the parents with the ultimate flexibility; however, if the parents do not get along or if future disagreements may occur, these are not a good choice for the family.

Scheduled visitation provides clear direction to the parents about how the children’s time will be spent. These orders are ideal for parents who may not get along or communicate well because they provide clear expectations. If you’ve ever heard someone say that it was “their weekend” with their children, the court probably ordered scheduled visitation in their divorce. These orders dictate everything from birthdays and major holidays down to evenings and weekends.

Courts use supervised visitation orders when necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of children. In supervised visitation, the parent still gets to spend time with the children but only under the supervision and presence of another adult or, sometimes, a professional agency. Supervised visitation may be used in situations like the following:

  • Allegations or a history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence;
  • A nonexistent or weakened parent-child relationship;
  • Parental mental illness or substance abuse.

In rare cases, a court will order no visitation for a parent. This is only done when visits would not be in the best interest of the children, such as when a parent refuses to refrain from alcohol or drugs while visiting with the child.

Remember that child support is a matter separate from child visitation. That means that a parent cannot deny visitation to another for nonpayment of support; likewise, a parent cannot deny payment because the other refused visitation.

An experienced family lawyer can ensure that you understand the issues that might impact child visitation and help you present them in the best light possible to a judge. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have substantial experience in Northern California and will represent you aggressively. Please contact us today at (415) 259-6636 to learn more.


Protecting Children from an Unfit Parent in California

Supervised Visitation in California
Supervised Visitation in California
Divorce is usually a difficult time for families, but can be viewed as a process necessary to move to a more fulfilling, happy, and stable phase of life.  When a divorce is the result of one parent’s terrible job of being a parent, there is no need to make the children continue suffering.  It may be necessary to protect the children from being alone with a parent who is not fit to have unsupervised visitation. In California, a court may find that a parent is unfit to be alone with his or her children and require visits to be supervised by a third party.  Some common reasons a court may order supervised visitation include the following:
  • To give the visiting parent a chance to address specific issues;
  • To help  reintroduce a parent and a child after a long absence;
  • To help introduce a parent and a child when there has been no existing relationship between them;
  • When there is a history or allegations of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, or substance abuse;
  • When there are parenting concerns or mental illness; or
  • When there is a threat of abduction by the non-custodial parent.
In addition to establishing supervised visitation, a court may also determine when, where, and how long visitation will take place, along with who will supervise visits.  If you are going through a difficult divorce and have concerns over the safety of your children during post-divorce visits, contact us immediately to review your case and help you determine the best strategy for protecting your children. Likewise, if you feel visitation is being wrongfully withheld due to unfounded allegations that you are an unfit parent, contact us to discuss your options and help you restore your healthy relationship with your children. 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 San Francisco Bay and Sacramento areas. If you are a parent with a visitation or custody issue, call us today to learn more about how we can help. Call (415)293-8314 in the San Francisco Bay area or (916)631-1935 in the Sacramento area, or contact us online via our confidential inquiry form.