With offices in San Mateo, CA, Laughlin Legal, PC has a reputation for providing the highest level of service in all aspects of family law to clients throughout Northern California. We understand the sensitive nature of family law matters, and are dedicated to maintaining the privacy of a diverse clientele, including a number of prominent figures in Silicon Valley.

The firm’s areas of expertise include:


At Laughlin Legal, we understand that going through a divorce is one of the most difficult life-challenges our clients will face.  Decisions made during this process can have a lasting impact on family, assets, and finances. Our qualified family law attorneys handle everything from simple uncontested dissolutions to contentious litigation matters, involving substantial assets and complex child custody issues.  No matter the scope of your case, our team will work tirelessly to protect your rights and ensure the best possible outcome for you and your children.

Domestic Partners

Under California law, Domestic Partners, or same-sex couples who file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State, are afforded the same rights, and are subject to the same obligations and responsibilities, as spouses in a marriage. Should the parties wish to dissolve the partnership, we can assist in both the dissolution and any related legal issues that may arise, such as custody of children or support matters.

Marital Property Characterization, Valuation, and Division

California is a Community Property state, meaning that all property, real or personal, acquired during the marriage is the property of both spouses.  During a divorce the court will determine what, if anything, is the separate property of only one spouse.  At Laughlin Legal, our attorneys have extensive experience handling complex property division, particularly in large estates where there are significant investment and property holdings both in and outside of California.

Spousal & Child Support

We have extensive experience handling a wide range of spousal and child support arrangements, including cases where one or both spouses are considered high-earners.  A spousal support order is based upon a number of complex factors under California Family Code section 4320.

Child support is based on the best interests of the children standard, and generally lasts until the age of 18.  The amount of child support is based on:

  • The earning capacity of each parent;
  • The number of children;
  • How much time the children spend with each parent; and
  • Medical, education, and other expenses of the parents.

The parents can also agree on a different amount not based on this guideline. A court will generally approve the agreement if it is in the best interests of the children.

At Laughlin Legal, you can trust that our family law attorneys will make sure you receive the best possible spousal and child support award available.

Child Custody & Move Away Requests

Determining a custody arrangement can be the most emotionally difficult and contentious obstacle in a divorce proceeding. Two custody determinations must be made: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about a child’s welfare, health, and education. Examples of these types of decisions include:

  • where a child will go to school;
  • whether a child will engage in religious activities; and
  • whether a child should receive medical care (except in emergency situations).

Joint Legal Custody

Under California law, joint legal custody means that both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Joint legal custody is very common in California. The fact that parents share joint legal custody, however, does not necessarily mean they will share joint physical custody.

Parents typically share joint legal custody, unless one of the following is true:

  • the parents are completely unable to make decisions together;
  • one parent is deemed unfit;
  • one parent is incapable of making decisions regarding the upbringing and general welfare of the child; or
  • it would be in the child’s best interests for one parent to have sole legal custody.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole legal custody means that only one parent has the right to make all major decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child, and may make such decisions without getting the other parent’s input. The fact that a parent has sole legal custody does not mean that parent will also have sole physical custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where a child will live after a divorce or separation. Physical custody is quite different from legal custody. The parent with physical custody has the right to have the child physically present in the home. If a child lives exclusively or primarily with one parent, that parent is usually referred to as the “custodial” or “residential” parent. The other parent is considered the “non-custodial” or “non-residential” parent and typically has visitation rights.

Joint Physical Custody

Although sole physical custody may be granted when it is in the best interest of the child, all custody decisions start out in favor of some form of joint physical custody. Joint physical custody means that both parents share time with the children equally or close to equally.

Sole Physical Custody

Sole physical custody means that a child resides primarily with one parent, subject to the court’s authority to order visitation time with the other parent.

Complex Custody and Move Away Requests

At Laughlin Legal, we assist clients with both simple and complex custody and visitation matters, including “move-away” cases, where one parent wants to relocate with the child outside of California, or even outside the country. If you are a client at Laughlin Legal, our attorneys will make sure your parental rights are protected to the fullest extent possible, no matter what the situation.


Under California paternity law, “the child of a wife cohabiting with her husband — is conclusively presumed to be a child of the marriage.” However, in many cases, a child is born out of wedlock, or the mother’s husband is not the father. Establishing paternity can have a significant impact on custody, visitation rights, and child support obligations. While many parents choose to establish paternity voluntarily, it is sometimes necessary to obtain a court order.


Adoptions are a wonderful event but can be a complex process involving many important legal and financial considerations. At Laughlin Legal, we have the legal knowledge and experience to ensure that all the required documents are completed and the entire process goes smoothly. The attorneys at Laughlin Legal represent both adoptive parents and biological parents on all the procedural and legal aspect of adoptions.

Domestic Violence

The attorneys at Laughlin Legal have extensive experience assisting those seeking marriage dissolution or relief from an abusive relationship.  We are advocates against domestic violence and are prepared to counsel victims of domestic abuse to ensure their rights are upheld in court.

We also understand that false allegations of domestic violence can harm the integrity and character of the accused. False allegations are common in divorce proceedings, child custody cases and other family law cases. At Laughlin Legal, we are prepared to represent anyone who is being falsely accused.

International Divorce and Jurisdictional Issues

Divorce in the Bay Area often involves a multitude of complex international and jurisdictional issues. We have extensive experience representing individuals with dual or multiple citizenship, international properties, and competing jurisdictional challenges.

Pre & Post-Nuptial Agreements

A premarital or prenuptial agreement allows parties contemplating marriage to decide in advance how their property will be divided in the event of divorce or separation.  Premarital agreements are especially common in situations where one spouse has disproportionately more property or assets than the other.  A post-marital or postnuptial agreement is similar but is executed after marriage. At Laughlin Legal, we are skilled at negotiating and drafting these agreements to ensure your assets are protected.

Post-Divorce Matters

Sometimes, even after a divorce, a parent’s circumstances may change significantly due to a loss in income or a change of location.  In these cases, the California Family Code allows the court to set aside or modify a support order.  If you or your spouse’s circumstances have changed in some way, our attorneys can work to advocate for your best interests, and the best interests of your children, in the court’s modification of support and custody orders.


Courts do not always make the right decisions. Therefore, the appeal process allow litigants to petition a higher court to review the trial court’s rulings. This is a very involved and expensive process, requiring clients to take their case to another law firm that practices appeals. But at Laughlin Legal, we assign an appellate attorney to our clients’ legal team for a smooth transition to the next phase. No loss of time, no loss of institutional memory. We gear up, and we are ready to go.


Laughlin Legal family law attorneys will never hesitate to go to court to advocate for your best interests.  However, we also encourage the use of mediation to amicably resolve family law disputes whenever possible.  We have experienced great success in mediating disputes and know how to help both parties achieve a common ground.