Child Custody and Visitation

One unfortunate aspect of Family Law practice is dealing with cases involving the custody of children.

In theory, the courts try to determine what is best for the children. "The best interest of the child" is a standard by which most child related matters are supposed to be measured. Litigants often make arguments couched in terms of the "best interest", but are really what is best for each litigant. Because the consequences of the decisions are so great, these are particularly difficult cases.

In California, before a judge can make a decision about long term custody, the parties must attempt Mediation through Family Court Services [FCS], an agency of the court to try to resolve custody and visitation issues. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement in San Diego County, the mediator will make a recommendation to the court - in other counties, the process differs. Your lawyer will prepare you for Mediation, and advise you about whether to challenge a recommendation.

Because the mediators at FCS are inconsistent in their results and have limited amounts of time to mediate and investigate the facts, your attorney may refer you to a private mediator in lieu of FCS.

Orders break down between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the power to make major decisions for children [medical and schooling]. Physical custody is where the child lives. Legal custody is almost always shared. Physical custody can be joint, shared, or sole custody.