Carlsbad Family Law Attorneys
Child Custody Compassionate in Our Approach, Decisive in Our Strategy

Carlsbad Child Custody Lawyer

How Child Custody Is Determined in California

In determining child custody in San Diego, the court focuses on what is best for the child. While each parent may have a different opinion on how the child will be best served, California law dictates that the court starts with two assumptions.

First, health, safety, and welfare are paramount. Second, the court assumes that children do best when they have regular contact with both parents.

For custody cases, “health, safety, and welfare” covers various situations and circumstances. For example, fathers do not have parental rights to children born from the rape of the mother. Furthermore, judges won’t grant custody or visitation to a parent convicted of child abuse. However, they may limit both if there is documentation of abuse.

Factors that positively influence a judge’s decision are:

  • The emotional bonds between the parent and children.
  • The parent’s history of involvement with the child’s life and activities.
  • The parent’s capacity to provide for the child’s daily needs.

The judge may also consider which parent is more apt to encourage a relationship and contact with the other parent.

When determining the welfare of a kid, the child’s wishes matter, especially if the children is older or more mature. The court will also make every attempt to keep siblings together.

Are you concerned about preserving your parental rights in a Carlsbad child custody case? The best way to protect them is by hiring expert custody lawyers serving Carlsbad from Griffith, Young & Lass. Dial (858) 371-5569 or submit an online contact form here.

Types of Child Custody in Carlsbad

Child Custody and visitation issues can be complicated for parents to work through. Understanding the law going into the situation can help tremendously. Every parent should understand the following essential concepts and procedures before pursuing litigation.

In California, there are two types of custody in divorce and paternity cases: legal and physical custody. A family court making orders for child custody in San Diego County will make orders for both legal and physical custody.

  • Legal custody orders of children in family law cases address decision-making power. The party with legal custody has the legal power to make decisions regarding the medical care, schooling, and general welfare of the children. Typically, unless there is a good reason to act otherwise, the family court will rule for parents to share joint legal custody of minor children.
  • Physical custody orders of children in family law cases address where the children will physically reside and specific scheduling for co-parenting. There are two scenarios for physical child custody orders: joint physical custody or primary custody to one parent (custodial parent) and the right of visitation to the other (non-custodial parent).

Meet Our Team 

Honest. Fearless. Bold.
  • John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS
  • Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS
  • Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS
  • Shirin Asgari, Esq., CFLS
  • Noelle J. Slattery, Esq.
  • Eric Cowdery, Esq.
  • Joshua Yee, Esq.
  • Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq.
  • Lea Trojanowski, Esq.
  • Greyson Sharp, Esq.
  • Brittany Van Ryder, Esq.
  • Karissa Piralla, Esq.
  • John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS


    John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization. Prior to opening Griffith, Young & Lass, he worked as the managing partner of one of the largest family law firms in North County San Diego.
    John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS Photo
  • Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS


    Catie E. Young excels in child custody cases and move-away trials. She has a unique approach to child custody cases and clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases. Since joining the firm, she has continuously brought her zeal and compassion to representing clients in child custody and domestic violence cases, and in December 2011, she became a partner at Griffith, Young & Lass.
    Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS Photo
  • Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS


    Amy Lass, a certified family law specialist, was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting. Amy went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006.
    Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS Photo
  • Shirin Asgari, Esq., CFLS Shirin Asgari, Esq., CFLS


    Attorney Shirin Asgari has a broad spectrum of legal experience and has handled matters in family law, criminal law, business law, and national security law. Currently, she focuses on family law matters and is a strong advocate for the rights of her clients. She dedicates time and attention to the needs of each client and the unique circumstances their case presents.
    Shirin  Asgari, Esq., CFLS Photo
  • Noelle J. Slattery, Esq. Noelle J. Slattery, Esq.


    Noelle J. Slattery, Esq. has a bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts/Acting from Emerson College in Boston and a Juris Doctor ...
    Noelle J. Slattery, Esq. Photo
  • Eric Cowdery, Esq. Eric Cowdery, Esq.


    Eric Cowdery earned his bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before earning his JD from Golden Gate University as part of the Honors Lawyering Program. He was admitted to the California Bar Association in 2013 and has been working diligently in the field ever since. Taking a personalized approach to each case, Eric Cowdery is committed to working with clients to help them through the often confusing and complex legal process of divorce.

    Eric  Cowdery, Esq. Photo
  • Joshua Yee, Esq. Joshua Yee, Esq.


    Attorney Joshua Yeereceived his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, from the University of California, San Diego. Joshua went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from University of San Francisco. His experience working with a local Certified Family Law Specialist solidified his desire to become a family law attorney. Since becoming an attorney, Josh has exclusively practiced in family law.
    Joshua  Yee, Esq. Photo
  • Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq. Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq.


    Shaudi Malekzadeh is a Carlsbad family law attorney at Griffith, Young & Lass, advocating for the rights and interests of Southern California families in a variety of family law cases, such as child custody, alimony, spousal support, and the division of community property. She is committed to delivering effective legal representation to our clients, aggressively advocating for their legal rights, and offering compassionate legal advice.
    Shaudi  Malekzadeh, Esq. Photo
  • Lea Trojanowski, Esq. Lea Trojanowski, Esq.


    Lea Trojanowski is an attorney with Griffith, Young, and Lass, joining the firm in March 2021. Her pragmatic and level-headed approach to family law has allowed her to be successful in even the most emotional family law cases. Lea has effectively represented clients in a wide range of family law proceedings, but is particularly drawn to domestic violence restraining order cases.
    Lea  Trojanowski, Esq. Photo
  • Greyson Sharp, Esq. Greyson Sharp, Esq.


    Greyson Sharp received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from California State University, Fresno. After ...
    Greyson  Sharp, Esq. Photo
  • Brittany Van Ryder, Esq. Brittany Van Ryder, Esq.


    Brittany Van Ryder joined Griffith, Young, and Lass as a Bar Clerk in September 2022. She became an Associate Attorney at the ...
  • Karissa Piralla, Esq. Karissa Piralla, Esq.


    A San Diego native, Karissa earned a Bachelor's Degree in Communication from UCSD and a Juris Doctorate from the University ...

Can You Get a Child Custody Agreement Without Going to Court?

You don’t necessarily have to go to court to get custody. A child custody agreement can be agreed upon in mediation so that you and your spouse can both agree on how to spend time with the children as the divorce moves forward.

The first step is for you and your spouse to devise an agreement you can both live with, and that is best for any children the two of you share. A custody agreement is a document that is agreed upon by both parties, or that is ordered by a Judge in divorce court (or decided upon during the mediation process) that stipulates such things as:

  • Visitation time spent with the children
  • Who will gain primary and secondary custody of the children
  • Whether the two of you will split time with the children 50/50
  • Child support information
  • And anything else that will help you and the other parent raise the children properly.

While all the above parameters sound straightforward, they usually are not, especially when you and your spouse don’t get along and you plan to fight for primary custody or other factors. This is where it helps to get the advice of a skilled and experienced lawyer who can help you negotiate your way to fair and even child custody in all regards.

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What is a Standard Child Custody Agreement?

While the above is a good rundown of a child custody document, matters can get a little more complicated than that. Here is all you must consider when forming an arrangement with your soon to be ex-spouse.

  • Schedule: A thorough child arrangement will include a residential or weekday schedule, which represents the routine you and your spouse will go through as you spend time with the children throughout the week and on weekends. For instance, you may split the children half the week, also known as joint custody. This arrangement works if you and your ex-spouse plan to live close to one another, which keeps the kids in the same school. If you don’t live close by, the non-custodial parent may get the children every other weekend while the primary or custodial parent keeps the kids the rest of the time. Provide another example. Your custody schedule may vary.
  • Holidays: This represents the custody schedule with regards to where the children will spend time on holidays, during school breaks, and on other special occasions. Agreeing on a holiday schedule keeps either parent from taking the kids across the state or out of the country in secret and without the other parent’s consent.
  • Vacations: Here is where both parents will describe the vacation time they wish to spend with the children, where they will go, and for how long.
  • Special Events: One-time events can be listed in this section of the child custody agreement, which represents special times with the children where the regular schedule changes. Examples may include which parent will keep the children in the case of weddings or funerals.
  • Other Considerations: Also included in most custody agreements are the exact pickup and drop-off times that each parent is required to adhere to. You may list which parent will host upcoming birthday parties, agreements to share medical and school records, and rules not to interfere with the child’s relationship with either parent. Other provisions will include how to handle the children’s medical and dental care, how to handle disputes about the agreement, and how to change the arrangement if needed.

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What to Expect During Your Appointment with Family Court Services

Any time an order for child custody or visitation is requested, the San Diego Family Court’s Local Rules require that parents attend mediation services provided by the Family Court Services (FCS). Success at FCS mediation is crucial to the success of your child custody case, as family court judges place a great deal of weight on the FCS mediator’s recommendation.

At the FCS appointment, the parents may present information concerning the custody of the children to a court-appointed mediator. The parents may also present relevant documentary evidence, including affidavits from friends and family.

The FCS mediator will issue an FCS Report and Recommendation to both parents and to the family court judge. The recommendation takes into consideration all information obtained by the mediator during their interview with the parents. The mediator will also review the file and assess any contact they’ve had with other third parties regarding the matter before issuing a recommended parenting plan.

Each parent is entitled to take 10 calendar days from receipt of the recommendation to review and respond to the information included in the report. The family court will grant a continuance of the hearing upon the request of either parent if the FCS report is not received with the 10-day time period.

At GYL, we prepare our child custody clients to succeed at FCS mediation and do everything possible to obtain a favorable result.

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Creating a Co-Parenting Plan

Parents going through a divorce or unmarried parents looking to separate are faced with the often-difficult task of developing a co-parenting relationship that works best for the children involved. The parents must accommodate work and school schedules when creating a custody schedule that works. The overarching consideration must always be the best interests of the children.

The best co-parenting plans and custody arrangements are those that ensure access to both parents on a regular basis. True shared parenting arrangements generally involve the parents alternating weekends and dividing weekdays in varying schedules.

In any case, it is always best for parents to work together and be flexible with one another regarding the children’s schedules. The last thing that you want is for a judge to dictate the terms of your parenting plan because you were unable to agree to the terms on your own. However, unfortunately, sometimes there is no other choice.

Always remember: Taking a child-centered approach is the key to success in cases involving children.

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Private Custody Evaluation

Occasionally, in complex cases, high-conflict child custody cases, and cases where there are allegations of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, or mental illness, one parent may seek the intervention of a psychologist or psychiatrist specialized in addressing these issues as they relate to child custody and visitation.

The party seeking the private custody evaluation does so in lieu of FCS mediation and, absent an agreement from the other parent, that party must request that the court order the private evaluation.

The private custody evaluator conducts what is called an Evidence Code “730 Evaluation.” This evaluation is given to the court after the evaluator has met with both parents, the children and other third parties involved with the family. This evaluation is considered to be admissible evidence at the eventual child custody hearing and holds a great deal of weight with the family court judge.

Private child custody evaluations are very expensive but are often well worth the extra money when circumstances warrant the need for one.

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Modifying Child Custody in San Diego County

Generally, and with few exceptions, once a child custody order is made, it is difficult to modify. When requesting modification to an existing custody order, the requesting party must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances to warrant updating the existing conditions of the custody order. This standard comes from the case of Montenegro v. Diaz (2001) 26 Cal. 4th 249.

The change in circumstances could be a change of schedule, a change of location of one or both of the parents, a job less, a medical condition, or any number of significant changes affecting either parent’s ability to adhere to the old custody order.

In order to move forward with a modification absent an agreement from the other parent, the requesting party must move the court to initiate a mediation appointment with Family Court Services and request a court hearing on the issue of child custody modification.

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Emergency Child Custody Orders

Generally, a family court judge will not issue custody orders on an emergency basis unless there is evidence that the minor child faces a threat of immediate harm or threat of being removed from the State of California without the express consent of the other parent.

If a threat legitimately exists, it is imperative that you act fast. Contact GYL now if this is the case and we can appear on your behalf in family court within 48 hours to request emergency child custody orders.

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Consult With Our Child Custody Attorney in Carlsbad Today!

GYL Partner Catie Young specializes in child custody cases. Whether you need to negotiate a co-parenting plan with the other parent, or you need a skilled lawyer by your side in the courtroom, Catie and our entire team of Carlsbad custody lawyers is here to help.

Contact us online or give us a call at (858) 371-5569. When needed, we can accommodate same-day appointments.

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Over 100 5-Star Reviews Throughout Our Social Media Platforms
  • The way John presented our case was pure genius with meticulous preparation and deliberate action in court.

    “We were referred to John Griffith at GYL by our former attorney. I specifically was looking for an aggressive attorney that would yield results. John, Josh, and the firm performed flawlessly, and did ...”

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    “She doesn’t back down from anyone. It was the best decision I’ve made yet and hopefully, it will be yours too.”

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    “The GYL team is always prompt at returning calls & emails. From personal experience, I can tell you that they will not step away from your case until it's finished.”

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    “GYL has been an extraordinary support and backing in my divorce. Being a male in the military, the process for divorce and custody is difficult. GYL was extremely helpful, and I was able to full custody of my children. That alone is such a monumental feat.”

    - Frankie S.
  • Worth every penny! My custody case went as stress-free as it could possibly be.

    “I hate seeing anyone go through custody battles but if you’re in that situation and need someone who is trustworthy and great at what they do, then I swear this is the place to get the help!”

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    “Compassionate and kind, however, he will fight for you and your best interests. He is calm and calculated and extremely smart.”

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    “The professional and succinct assistance was a much-needed breath of fresh air in the maze of hurdles and complications with our family law case.”

    - David R.

Why GYL? 

Turn to a Team that Does It Best
  • We're Leaders in Our Field

    From case planning to preparation, to superior courtroom presence, our clients can be sure that they will walk into the Courtroom prepared and with the best chance of success.

  • Client Centered & Results Oriented

    Our representation is tailored to the unique circumstances of each client. We deploy the GYL strategic case trajectory dynamic to ensure the best chance at success at the most reasonable cost. 

  • Brilliant, Hard-Working & Honest

    We don't believe in wasting our client's time and money. Helping people is what drives us to excel at our craft. We first identify the goals and interests of each client, we then develop an efficient and effective case plan aimed at achieving those goals.

  • Responsible & Ethical Practices

    We believe in a responsible and ethical practice and stick to our values regardless of the situation. We're transparent and don't just tell our clients what they want to hear, unless it's what we believe, even if it may deter them from moving forward. We stand by our team's expertise and will always be upfront and honest with our clients. 

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