Child Custody

San Mateo Child Custody Lawyers

“Many studies have shown conclusively that children who don’t have a significant, healthy relationship with both parents don’t do as well in life. In California, whatever is best for the children wins. I always start with the assumption that it is critical for both parents to be involved, day to day. That’s how children thrive. However, every now and again, a child custody evaluator determines that a parent in their present emotional and/or mental state cannot add value to the child’s life. And I’ve fought heated battles all over the state of California and had two successful move away cases in the last 2 years and that’s very hard-won. Whatever’s best for the child.”

Amy Laughlin

California believes in joint custody.
Child custody is often the most emotional, most contentious aspect of a divorce. Fortunately, California’s considerations for child custody are based solely on the best interests of the child, and unless there’s evidence to the contrary, that includes joint custody.

This means both parents are equally considered for custody. Losing all rights to interact with your children would be highly unlikely. Almost any case settled in California is going to end with joint custody or primary custody for one parent and parenting time rights for the other. Most parents opt to leave nothing to chance. They research and retain an experienced child custody lawyer to help them protect their child’s best interests.

Child custody mediation is mandatory. 
And again, in California, it is focused on the best interests of the child, not the best interests of the parents. Both parents must make an effort to discuss and resolve issues with the help of a skilled child custody mediator. And the case cannot continue until mediation is completed. If mediation fails, the judge will determine what’s best for the child regarding custody and parenting time. 

In these cases, where the parents can lose their ability to jointly make decisions regarding their children, an experienced child custody mediator is vitally important.

Men may need to establish paternity. 
While judges are not allowed to show bias against fathers, you need to be legally recognized as the child’s father to be considered for custody in the first place. Men who were married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth are automatically registered as the father. If you were not married at the time, however, you will need to establish paternity. Without doing so, you cannot secure custody rights.

A skilled child custody lawyer can help you through the process of proving your relation to the child and becoming legally recognized as the father. 

Dedicated And Experienced Child Custody Mediators & Lawyers
At Laughlin Legal, our child custody mediators and child custody attorneys help parents achieve the custody or parenting time they deserve. We also provide a number of other custody-related services such as establishing paternity or seeking permission for relocation if a parent wants to move with the children during or after a divorce. We are trusted throughout California for our ability to understand and secure our clients’ needs.


refers to the determination of how the parents divide the rights and responsibilities of taking care of their children. A good child custody lawyer will explain the two types of custody, legal and physical, and advise you on your best options for gaining or retaining custody of your children. The legal custodian(s) make important decisions for the children and their welfare. The physical custodian(s) live with the children most of the time and are the primary caregivers. Joint custody means the parents equally share the rights and responsibilities for their children. Sole custody means one parent holds the primary right and responsibility.

cases often involve either geographic complexity, for instance a parent who is relocating outside California, or behavioral complexity such as allegations of substance abuse or child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, mental health disorders, or parental alienation.

also called paternity, is the status of being a child’s legal parent, whether a natural parent or an adoptive parent. As of 2013, a child may be found to have more than two legal parents.

in California is calculated using a formula that considers parents’ income and certain expenses, number of children, amount of time children spend with each parent, and special needs of the children. Child support agreements rarely deviate from California’s formula but a skilled child support lawyer is still important for helping you successfully seek an order for child support. We can also hold your ex-spouse responsible for inadequate or missing payments.

Emancipation is a legal way for a 14 to 17-year-old to become free from their parent’s custody and control. In many ways, they are legally like an adult.

are orders issued by the court – such as temporary child custody orders or temporary spousal support orders – before the case goes to trial to establish boundaries or maintain the family’s status quo until a final divorce and/or custody agreement is signed.

is an attorney appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child in family law proceedings. A minor’s counsel lawyer may continue to represent the child in legal matters until the child reaches the age of 18.

formerly known as visitation, is time set aside for visits with children and a parent. There are 4 different kinds: Scheduled, Reasonable or open ended or without a predetermined schedule, Supervised when there are concerns about the children’s safety and well-being, and No Visitation if there’s a good chance a visit would be emotionally or physically harmful to the children. If parents cannot agree which is best, a judge will decide for them.

A parent is permitted to change where a child lives if it won’t interfere with the current custody and parenting time orders, and they’ve given the other parent notice. If not, the parent will need to ask for a court order before the child can move with them.

Case Story

A Child Custody Client In Their Own Words

“My ex was an abusive alcoholic and I knew my divorce would be hard in the climate of the Bay Area. It’s a boys club, and it’s hard to be the woman who presumably is not the future big money earner. He hired 5 law firms. It was Amy and Caitlin against 5 law firms. I was so afraid because I had been programmed that he would destroy me if I left him and he tried hard to make good on that promise. But I had someone on my side who said, ‘I’m not afraid of this guy. I’ve seen guys like this.’

Caitlin is smart as a whip, steel trap memory, one of the most meticulous, type A, organized people. Incredible writer, beautiful briefs, just could not be more competent and capable. Stands by the facts in the face of the storm and looks totally unruffled. She walked me through many terrifying moments.

Amy was the person who got on zoom in front of the judge with lawyers screaming at her and she stood her ground. This was not one of those cases where you can see both people are basically good people. My ex went after Amy so hard and so personally. Not many people will stand up to highly intimidating, highly dysfunctional mega hi-worth individuals with all their connections. Amy will. She’s like this skinny kid on the playground, surrounded by bullies, and she takes off her earrings and she’s like, Let’s go!

It’s the most terrifying thing you’ll ever have to do is to confront your abuser. He had people watching my house, my kids in my house, it was the worst time of my life. We had to put shower curtains over the windows. I was so saturated in fear and trauma. And Amy and Caitlin stopped it. They’re like freedom fighters. They gave me the freedom to heal. I had such severe ptsd, developed a heart condition. Your body can’t handle that amount of stress. I never thought I’d have a life.

Amy stood up, she fought and she won. She negotiated nothing short of a miracle and the ability for me to move away. I moved my kids away from a toxic environment. They went from failing school to all As and Bs. They saved my kids. And Amy said, All I want is a Christmas card from you with the kids all smiling.”


Next Step

Book a consultation.

Let’s talk about your child custody needs. How can we help?

If you’re looking for some of the best child custody lawyers in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, let’s talk. Call us at 650.343.3486 or email us here.

Let’s get started.

The FOREFRONT A divorce & family law blog

Think About It: Is It Really So Strange To Have A Transactional Real Estate Lawyer At A Family Law Firm? We find it

You’re in luck because you’re in California, a community property state. And that makes the division of assets simple in that everything acquired

Amy Laughlin, a divorce and child custody lawyer in San Mateo, knows better than most what’s at stake for the children of divorcing parents.