Carlsbad Child Custody Lawyers

California Child Custody Laws

There are two types of custody in California.  There’s physical custody that applies to which parent has the right to have the child live with them.  The court can order joint physical custody where the child lives more or less equally with both parents or will grant primary physical custody to one parent with the other parent having visitation rights depending on the circumstances.  If there are serious problems with the noncustodial parent such as abuse or domestic violence, the court can order no visitation or supervised visitation by a professional monitor or a family member trusted by the court and by the custodial parent.

The second type of custody is legal custody.  This means having the right and the obligation to make decisions about a child’s upbringing. A parent with legal custody can make decisions about the child’s schooling, religious upbringing and medical care, for example. In California, courts regularly award joint legal custody, which means that the decision making is shared by both parents.  But, courts won’t hesitate to award sole legal custody to one parent if it deems the other parent unfit for reasons such as child abuse or neglect or drug abuse or dependency.

Custody determinations are fact intensive as there is much for the court to weigh and consider in its discretion in arriving at a custody order that is in the child’s best interests.  The court applies an order of preference in arriving at custody orders as codified in Family Code Section 3040.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

Under California Family Code Section 3011, judges evaluate several factors before making custody decisions in the best interests of the child. These factors include the child’s health, safety and welfare, any history of abuse, the nature and amount of contact the child has had with the parents, and drug use by either parent. In addition, the judge will take into consideration the opinions and preferences of child if they deem it in their best interest. The law generally provides this option for children 13 or older, or based on the maturity of the child, but the court will hear from younger children in certain cases.  In certain cases, the court will even appoint an attorney for the child, minor’s counsel, to make a recommendation to the court in the child’s best interest.

Frequent and Continuing Contact

Pursuant to California Family Code Section 3020(b), absent child abuse, domestic violence, or where the contact would not be in the best interest of the child, the family court must promote frequent and continuing contact with both parents such that the parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child when the parents divorce or separate.

Mandatory Child Custody Recommending Counseling

In any dissolution of marriage matter in San Diego County regarding child custody and visitation where there is a dispute, Family Code Section 3170 mandates that the case be set for child custody recommending counseling prior to the court hearing. The social workers at the Family Court Services office will try to broker a deal between the parties.  You cannot be forced to enter into an agreement.  However, if no agreement is reached, a recommendation will be made by the Family Court Counselor to the court.  These results of these reports are the critical as they often set the tone for your entire case.

Evidence Code 730 Evaluation

Sometimes the court needs more evidence and to dig deeper through an investigation by and report from an expert witness to determine a custody order in the child’s best interest.  Pursuant to California Evidence Code Section 730, the court can order such an evaluation by a qualified and court-approved psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or marriage and family therapist (MFT) if there are concerns regarding substance abuse, mental health problems, one parent wishes to move out of state and the other parent objects (move away requests), questionable parenting practices  that could have a negative impact on a child, the parents are unable to agree on the custodial arrangement, or where there is a question about the child’s upbringing.  If a party is unhappy with the evaluator or the report, he or she can hire their own expert under Evidence Code 733 to counter the court’s expert’s report.

Custody of your children is much too important to go it alone without the advice and representation of a skilled and experienced child custody attorney.


Contact us for more information on how the Heieck Law Center can help you regarding your child custody matter.


Other Practice Areas


Child Custody

Child Support

Dissolution of Marriage

Spousal Support

Property Division

Domestic Violence



Legal Separation

Qualified Domestic Relations Order



2173 Salk Avenue
Suite 250
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Phone: 760-579-7347
Fax: (760) 579-7348

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