San Diego Child Custody Lawyer
Advocating for San Diego Parents Who Fight For The Best Interest of Their Children
California has a policy of ensuring that each parent has frequent and continuing contact with minor children. This mandate is vague, which makes custody and visitation issues extremely nuanced.
When you need an experienced and compassionate child custody attorney in San Diego, call Embry Family Law P.C. We provide effective legal representation with a client-focused approach.
Let our San Diego child custody lawyer explain family law and the legal process as it applies to your unique situation. Call now to get started with a consultation.
Should I Hire A Lawyer For Child Custody?
You should hire a lawyer for child custody to help you prepare for your hearing, gather essential information, and present your case to the court. Representing yourself in court is your right for custody, but hiring a child custody lawyer comes more pros than cons including better legal counsel and outcome of custody negotiations.
If you are dealing with a custody dispute, contact us now to speak with a San Diego child custody attorney.
How Does California Determine Child Custody?
Courts in San Diego, CA use the best interest of the child as the standard when determining how parenting time should be shared between parents.
Some of the factors involved in determining the best interest of the child include:
- Each parents ability to provide a loving and stable home
- The child's safety
- Any special needs the child may have
- The physical and mental health of both parents
- Keeping the child's routine consistent
In some child custody cases, one parent may have primary custody while the other has visitation once or twice during the week. In other situations, parenting time is shared equally.
Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in California?
A child cannot choose the parent they want to live with within California under 14.
Despite no law existing, many courts throughout the state believe a child over age 14 is old and mature enough to express themselves and express whom they prefer over the other.
What is The Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
There are two types of custody that are considered in San Diego: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child will live and spend time. Legal custody refers to who has the right to make major decisions for the child.
Legal custody allows parents to make decisions regarding:
- Education and childcare
- Medical care
- Religious activities
- Summer camp
- Sports and extracurricular activities
Physical and legal custody can either be shared jointly – with both parents making the decisions – or held solely by one parent. When parents are unable to come to an agreement, a San Diego judge will base custody decisions on what he or she believes is in the child’s best interests.
What is The Difference Between Sole Custody and Joint Custody?
Sole legal custody is when one parent is responsible for making all major decisions regarding their child’s upbringing – this includes decisions about education, religion, and health care. Sole physical custody is when a child lives with one parent. This doesn’t mean that the other parent doesn’t get to see their child, instead it means that they need visitation rights to see their child.
Joint legal custody is when both parents are responsible for making decisions about their child’s upbringing. Joint physical custody means that both parents share physical possession of the child, which allows both parents to have maximum involvement in their child’s life.
How To File for Child Custody in San Diego County
In order to file for child custody, several steps must be taken.
- Establishing Paternity
If you are an unmarried father seeking child custody or visitation with your child, you must first establish paternity with the court in San Diego. This can be done by showing proof that you're name is on the child's birth certificate. In cases where a father is not listed on the birth certificate, paternity testing will need to be performed.
For mother's seeking child support, this procedure also needs to be followed to establish paternity.
Completing Required Documents
There are multiple documents that need to be completed when filing for custody in the County of San Diego. This can include any supporting documentation, such as proof of paternity, any current or past custody orders, separation agreements, and domestic violence orders.
The required forms include:
Order to Show Cause
Application for Order and Supporting Declaration
Child Custody and Visitation Application
Responsive Declaration to and Order to Show Cause
Notice of Motion
Proof of Service of Summons
Serving the Other Party
In any child custody case, both parties will need to attend all court hearings in San Diego, CA. In order to notify the other party of your intent to file for child custody, you must serve them with all of the required documentation listed above.
Neither party involved in the case can personally serve the other party.
An adult third-party that has no involvement in the case must serve the respondent in the case at least 16 days prior to the court date.
Child Custody and Unmarried Parents in San Diego
When a child is born to unwed parents, this can make the issue of parental rights a challenging one. If the parents aren't married, the court makes each party responsible in different ways by default. If either party wishes to have their rights changed, they have to initiate a family court case.
It is important to work with a family lawyer for this step due to the complexity of this matter.
Our professional child custody lawyers in San Diego at Embry Family Law will help you as you seek to adjust your legal rights as a parent.
Rights of a Mother
In cases where the parents of a child aren't married, the mother is granted sole custody. This gives her the right to make decisions on behalf of the child on her own. However, it also means that she is solely responsible for financially caring for the child unless a child support order is enacted. If she wishes to get child support from the father, she will need him to establish parentage of the child.
What Rights Do Unmarried Fathers Have in San Diego?
An unwed father must take certain steps to establish that he is the father if he wishes to exercise any rights. Even if he is listed on the birth certificate, this is not sufficient to have custody rights over the child. As mentioned above, once a paternity test confirms that he is the father, he can then initiate a case with the San Diego family court to get custody status changed. At this time, he can also make requests regarding child support.
It is important to note that verbal agreements between the parents regarding child support, visitation, or any other aspect of the child’s life are not official or recognized by the court.
Can a Father Get Full Custody in California?
In California, a father can get full custody of a child. The state law says that no judge is allowed to take into account the gender of the parent when making decisions regarding child custody. All courts are making decisions regarding child custody using the best interest of the child standard.
How Much Does Child’s Preference Matter & Can a Child Refuse Visitation?
California state law defines the child's decision through three parameters:
Who the child decides to stay with
How clearly the child states their choice
The age at which a child can make an informed decision.
Currently, Section 3042 of the Family Code states that if a child has sufficient mental capacity to make a well-informed decision about their custody preference, then the court shall consider and give weight to the child’s wishes.
In other words, the court's weighing of the child's preference is entirely determined by the context of the case.
What Does The Judge Look For In A Child Custody Case?
The parent demanding custody must be able to meet their child's physical and emotional factors. These are the factors judges look at to base their decision for custody of the children.
Having a professional child custody attorney can help move the process along faster and gives you a stronger chance to win.
Build Your Case With Help From Our San Diego Child Custody Lawyers
Navigating a custody case can be challenging, and it is important to work with a San Diego child custody attorney who is skilled in this area and knowledgeable of California custody law. Our San Diego lawyers at Embry Family Law P.C. has extensive experience negotiating and litigating child custody and visitation issues.
We will provide an honest assessment of your case, tell you what you need to hear, and explain what is likely to happen in your situation. We help clients look past the difficulty of the present and see the future.
Please contact our child custody lawyer serving San Diego County at (619) 485-6476 for a consultation.
The Embry Family Law P.C. Team
Ben E. Embry
Family Law Associate Attorney
Senior Paralegal/Office Manager