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

Child Custody Attorneys in Carlsbad

How Child Custody Is Determined in California

In determining child custody, the court’s focus is 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 start with two assumptions. First, the health, safety, and welfare of the child are paramount. Second, the court assumes that children do best when they have regular contact with both parents.

For the purpose of child custody cases, “health, safety, and welfare” is an umbrella term covering a wide variety of situations and circumstances. For example, fathers do not have parental rights to children born from the rape of the mother. Furthermore, judges typically won’t grant custody or visitation to a parent who has been convicted of child abuse and may limit both if there is documentation of partner abuse, child abuse, or substance abuse.

Factors that positively influence a judge’s decision are the emotional bonds between the parent and child, the parent’s history of involvement with the child’s life and activities, and 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 making a determination concerning the welfare of a child, the child’s wishes matter, especially if the child is older or more mature. The court will also make every attempt to keep siblings together.

If you’re concerned about preserving your parental rights in a custody case, the best way to protect them is by hiring an expert Carlsbad child custody lawyer from Griffith, Young & Lass. To reach us, dial (858) 371-5569 or submit an online contact form here.

Types of Child Custody

Child Custody and visitation issues can be very difficult for parents to work through. Understanding the law going into the situation can help tremendously. The following are some important concepts and procedures that every parent should understand prior to pursuing child custody litigation.

There are two types of child custody in divorce and paternity cases: legal and physical custody. A family court making orders for child custody 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).

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.

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 child custody schedule that works. The overarching consideration must always be the best interests of the children.

The best co-parenting plans and child 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.

Private Custody Evaluation

Occasionally, in complex child custody 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.

Child Custody Modification

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.

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.

We Can Help You Protect Your Relationship With Your Children

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 child custody attorneys is here to help.

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

Meet Our Team 

Honest. Fearless. Bold.
  • John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS
  • Catie E. Young, Esq., CFLS
  • Amy J. Lass, Esq., CFLS
  • Shirin Asgari, Esq.
  • Eric Cowdery, Esq.
  • Jeffrey Wittliff, Esq.
  • Joshua Yee, Esq.
  • Shaudi Malekzadeh, 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. Shirin Asgari, Esq.


    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. 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
  • Jeffrey Wittliff, Esq. Jeffrey Wittliff, Esq.


    Jeffrey Wittliff is extremely attentive to his cases and believes in thorough preparation and the value of regular client communication. Behind the scenes, he has an extensive background in research related to all areas of family law, propounding discovery when necessary, and negotiation to settle cases with opposing parties.
    Jeffrey  Wittliff, 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

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  • I would highly recommend Griffith, Young & Lass to anyone looking for ethical, honest, hard-working and skillful lawyers.

    “I would highly recommend Griffith, Young & Lass to anyone looking for ethical, honest, hard-working and skillful lawyers (I would stress these are actually rare qualities within the legal industry and ...”

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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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    “Easy to work with, forthcoming about the process, set realistic expectations, and always kept cost in mind.”

    - Jennifer P.
  • All three lawyers worked together on the issues surrounding my case, which helped greatly when I was in need of answers or support.

    “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.”

    - Kelsey L.
  • I couldn’t have made it without them! I highly recommend them!

    “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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  • I highly recommend GYL if you are ever in need of a family law attorney.

    “No matter who I corresponded with they were always knowledgeable of my case and quick to respond.”

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  • Always willing to listen to your concerns. I would highly recommend.

    “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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  • Extremely helpful, responsive, and reasonable and got the job done amidst tenuous circumstances.

    “She and her team were extremely compassionate, sensitive with me while concurrently advocating strongly on my behalf.”

    - Jeremy R.
  • I felt like she was practical and knowledgeable and most importantly, she listened.

    “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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