Family & Children

Reunification & Other Family-Related Issues

The FAMILY & CHILDREN CHAPTER will give you an overview of the issues that parents and caregivers experience when trying to reconnect with and care for their children, as well as legal issues that arise during incarceration related to children, spouses/partners, and other family-related issues. This Chapter will teach you how to establish or re-establish your rights, responsibilities, and relationship with your child(ren), and how to navigate the family court systems so that you can best handle any issues related to custody, guardianship, juvenile dependency/CPS cases, visitation, child support, spousal support, paternity, and ending marriages or domestic partnerships.

DISCLAIMER – YOUR RESPONSIBILITY WHEN USING THIS GUIDE: When putting together the Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide, we did our best to give you useful and accurate information. However, the laws change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. We do not always have the resources to make changes to this informational material every time the law changes. If you use information from the Roadmap to Reentry legal guide, it is your responsibility to make sure that the law has not changed and applies to your particular situation. If you are incarcerated, most of the materials you need should be available in your institution’s law library. The Roadmap to Reentry guide is not intending to give legal advice, but rather legal information. No attorney-client relationship is created by using any information in this guide. You should always consult your own attorney if you need legal advice specific to your situation.

WHAT WILL I LEARN in the Family & children chapter?

    Key terms and concepts that you will frequently come across when you are navigating family law issues.How to locate and reconnect with your child; how your incarceration, parole/probation, and any court orders (such as protective orders) could affect your rights and responsibilities as a parent.What the three different courts are that handle family law cases in California and how to best navigate each court system.What the rights and responsibilities of a parent or caregiver are to care for a child and to make decisions for him/her.What your rights are to see and spend time with your child.What happens when a judge appoints a legal guardian to care for a child, and what your rights and responsibilities are as a guardian or parent.Your options as a parent if CPS or a judge removes your child from your home, and how to become a guardian for a child in a dependency court case.How to get custody or visitation if your case involves your child’s other parent.A basic overview of juvenile delinquency court and how your child’s juvenile delinquency court case could affect your ability to reconnect with your child in reentry.Becoming an adoptive parent, reconnecting with a child who you gave birth to while incarcerated, establishing paternity/parentage, and other family issues in prison, jail, or reentry.How to end a marriage or domestic partnership while incarcerated or after your release, and what to do if your spouse wants a divorce while you are incarcerated.Child support payments and other child support issues, including what to do if you owe past, overdue child support payments when you return to the community from prison or jail.Domestic Violence-related restraining orders, options for getting a restraining order, and what to do if you have a restraining order against you.
  1. Introduction

    1. Key Terms in the Family & Children Chapter

    2. The Impact of a Criminal Record on a Legal Case About Your Child or Grandchild

  2. The Rights of Parents & Grandparents

    1. Any Automatic Rights?

  3. Basic Steps to Reconnect with Your Child or Grandchild

    1. I am in reentry, and I want to reconnect with my child or grandchild. Where can I start?
  4. Defining Custody & Visitation

    1. What do custody and visitation have to do with my reentry?
    2. Custody

    3. Visitation

  5. Judges, Courts & the “Best Interest of the Child” Legal Standard

    1. Why would the courts be involved in my family matters?
    2. What factors does a judge look at when making a decision about custody and visitation with my child/grandchild?
    3. I have a history of substance abuse. How will this impact my ability to reconnect with my child or grandchild?
    4. Would it help my family law case to clean up my record?
  6. Protective Court Orders & “NO-CONTACT” CONDITIONS

    1. I believe there is a protective order or “no-contact” condition against me. What can I do?
    2. What could happen if I violate a court’s protective order or a “no-contact” condition of my supervision?
    3. How do I challenge a protective order or “no-contact” condition of my parole or probation?
    4. Additional Restrictions from Parole or Probation & Your General Rights

  7. The Three Courts that Handle Family MATTERS & Navigating Them

    1. Introduction to the Three Courts that Handle Family & Children Matters

  8. Family Court

    1. What is family court?
    2. Why would I go to family court to reconnect with my child or grandchild?
    3. How can a judge’s decision in family court affect my rights as a parent?
    4. How can a judge’s decision in family court affect my rights as a grandparent?
    5. How will a family court judge decide if I get custody or visitation with my child or grandchild?
    6. Are there any convictions that will automatically ban me from reconnecting with my child or grandchild in family court?
    7. What can I show the family court judge that custody or visitation with me is in the “best interest of the child”?
    8. What can I do to show mitigating circumstances related to my criminal record?
    9. What are alternatives to reconnecting with my child/grandchild without going to family court?
  9. Probate Court Guardianships

    1. What is probate court?
    2. Why would I have to go to probate court to reconnect with my child or grandchild?
    3. CHART: How is guardianship different than adoption or foster care?
    4. Scenario 1: Reconnecting with your Child in Probate Court

    5. Scenario 2: Becoming the Probate Guardian of Someone Else’s Child When You Have a Record


  10. Juvenile dependency court

    1. What is juvenile dependency court?
    2. Why would i go to juvenile dependency court?
    3. Scenario 1: Reconnecting with your Child(ren) in Dependency Court

    4. Scenario 2: Becoming a Foster Care Parent or Guardian of Someone Else’s Child through Juvenile Dependency Court

  11. Juvenile Deliquency Court: Just the Basics

    1. What is juvenile delinquency court?
    2. How could a case in juvenile delinquency court affect my ability to reconnect with my child in my reentry?
    3. What could happen to my parental rights if my child has a case in juvenile delinquency court?
    4. Could my criminal record affect my child’s case in juvenile delinquency court?
  12. Becoming an Adoptive Parent with a Record

    1. What is adoption?
    2. What is the background check process for potential adoptive parents?
    3. Can I adopt a child if I have a criminal record?
    4. I have a felony conviction that automatically bans me from adopting a child. can record clearing remedies help me adopt?
    5. My child was adopted out while I was incarcerated. What can I do to reconnect?
  13. Family Issues Inside Prison or Jail

    1. Pregnancy & Mothering While Incarcerated

    2. Restrictions on Children Visiting Currently Incarcerated Parents

    3. Paternity/Parentage Issues

  14. Ending a Marriage or Domestic Partnership (Divorce & Separation)

    1. Can I end a marriage or domestic partnership while I am incarcerated?
    2. divorce Questions while incarcerated & after release from prison or jail

  15. Managing & Navigating Spousal & Child Support

    1. What is a family-related court-ordered debt?
    2. How will owing family-related court-ordered debts affect my reentry?
    3. Child Support Debt

    4. Spousal Support Debt

  16. Domestic Violence & Restraining orders

    1. Overview of Domestic Violence restraining orders & Violations

  17. Conclusion


    1. Finding Help: Your Local Family Court, Family Law Facilitator, & Child Support Agencies
    2. Procedures for Family Court Mediation
    3. Procedures to Begin or Join a Family Court Case about Custody and/or Visitation
    4. Additional Information about De Facto Parents Status
    5. Resources by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC)
    6. 388 Petitions: Basic Information
    7. More Information On The Juvenile Delinquency Process
    8. Mothering While You Are Incarcerated
    9. List Of Non-Exemptible Crimes For Foster Parent Applicants
    10. Establishing Paternity
    11. Divorce or Legal Separation: Filing, Responding & Completing
    12. Child Support Forms
    13. Requesting Spousal Support