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Child A Attorney in San Diego

Serving All of San Diego County

At Andy Cook Law, our San Diego child custody lawyer has the skills, experience, and legal knowledge to protect your rights and serve your family’s best interests. We know how to navigate the California family law system, and we are ready to put our deep legal experience to work for you. With a focus on personalized, results-driven advocacy, our legal team will be a strong, effective advocate for you and your children. To set up a fully confidential initial consultation with a top-rated child custody attorney in San Diego, please contact us today.


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California Child Custody Laws: An Overview

California child custody laws are designed to protect the best interests of the child. The state uses a standard known as the “best interest of the child” to determine custody cases. The overarching goal of California family courts is to create a custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child standard is broad by design. It is intended to give family law judges the flexibility to make the best possible decision based on the specific circumstances of a case.

In California, there are two different types of child custody:

  • Legal Custody: This is the right and responsibility to make major life decisions on behalf of a child. A parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions related to education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Legal custody can be joint or sole.
  • Physical Custody: This is the right and responsibility to provide a child with a home and day-to-day care. A parent with physical custody has the right to have the child live with them. Physical custody can be joint or sole.

How Do California Courts Determine Child Custody?

California family courts have the power to create a child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child. In practice, this means that judges review a wide range of different factors when making a decision.

Some of the key factors that California family courts will consider when determining child custody include:

  • The age of the child;
  • The specific needs of the child;
  • The relationship between the child and each parent;
  • The relationship between the child and any siblings;
  • The child’s ties to his or her school, community, and extracurricular activities;
  • The mental and physical health of each parent;
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse;
  • The child’s own wishes (in some cases); and
  • Each parent’s ability to cooperate and work together to make decisions.

In many cases, parents can work together to create a child custody arrangement that suits their needs and the needs of their children. This is always the preferred path. Indeed, California law requires parents to submit a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan in all custody cases. The parenting plan must include a comprehensive child custody and visitation schedule. If parents cannot agree, the family law judge will make a determination.

How to Get a Child Custody Order in California

In California, you can get a child custody order through three different methods: by mutual agreement, by stipulation, or by order of the court.

By Mutual Agreement: If you and your former partner have agreed on a parenting plan, you can simply submit it to the court. You must submit it to the court. A judge will review the plan and approve it so long as it is in the best interests of the child. In this situation, you do not need to go to court for a hearing.

By Stipulation: If you and your former partner agree on a parenting plan, but you want to get a court order, you can go to the court and ask the judge to approve your agreement. The judge will review the plan and approve it so long as it is in the best interests of the child. In this situation, you will need to go to court for a hearing.

By Order of the Court: If you and your former partner cannot agree on a parenting plan, you can go to the court and ask the judge to create a child custody order. The judge will review the specific circumstances of your case and make a determination based on the best interests of the child. In this situation, you will need to go to court for a hearing.

Child Custody Modification: Can Child Custody Orders Be Changed?

In California, child custody orders are not set in stone. Parents can always go back to court and seek a modification of the existing child custody order. In order to get a modification, you must be able to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances. The change must be both “substantial” and “unanticipated.” This is a relatively high legal standard. That being said, many different things can be considered a “significant” change in circumstances. For example, a child’s needs may have changed or one parent may have moved.

Child Custody & Visitation for Unmarried Parents

Unmarried parents in California have the same legal rights and responsibilities as married parents. If you are an unmarried parent, you can seek custody and visitation rights from the family court. In some cases, an unmarried father may need to establish paternity before seeking custody or visitation. If you have any questions about your parental rights in California, an experienced San Diego child custody lawyer can help.

Emergency Child Custody Orders in California

In emergency situations, a parent can seek an expedited child custody order. An emergency child custody order in California is a temporary order that is designed to address an immediate threat to the child’s well-being. These cases are complex; they require immediate attention from a qualified San Diego, CA child custody attorney. At Andy Cook Law, our legal team has the skills and experience to handle emergency child custody cases. We will protect your parental rights and your child’s best interests.

Child Custody Mediation in California

California courts require parents to attempt child custody mediation before going to court. The goal of mediation is to help parents come to an agreement on a parenting plan. If you and your former partner can agree on a parenting plan, you will not need to go to court. Instead, you will be able to get a child custody order through the mediation process. If mediation is not successful, you can go to court and ask the judge to create a child custody order. At that point, the judge will review the specific circumstances of your case and make a determination based on the best interests of the child.

Why Choose Our San Diego Child Custody Lawyer

At Andy Cook Law, our San Diego child custody lawyer is a skilled, solutions-focused advocate for parents. We know how to protect your rights and help you create a child custody arrangement that meets your needs and the needs of your children. As a client, you will have a dedicated family law attorney by your side, fighting for the best possible outcome in your case.

Request a Confidential Consultation With Our San Diego Child Custody Attorney

At Andy Cook Law, our San Diego child custody lawyer is a compassionate, solutions-focused advocate for parents. If you have questions about child custody or child custody modification, we are available to help. To arrange a fully confidential, no-commitment case evaluation, please contact us today. With an office in San Diego, we serve communities throughout the region, including Encinitas, La Mesa, and El Cajon.


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  • “Cleaned Up A Mess”
    “Andy was on the ball, quick, and got the results I needed. Trust me, he is an excellent attorney and he really cleaned up a mess that my previous attorney made. Mr. Cook got me what my other attorney could not get.”
    - Former Client
  • “He Can Get It Done”
    “My ex was doing everything possible to keep me from visiting my daughter. Andy stuck by me and we were able get 50/50 custody and end all of the nonsense. Andy can get it done if you need the help.”
    - Former Client
  • “Tremendous to Work With”
    “Andy has a lot of experience, and he is responsive to his client’s needs. He was tremendous to work with during the painful process of divorce. I could not have chosen a better lawyer to work with during my divorce.”
    - Robert H.
  • “Professional, Courteous, and Helpful”
    “Presented the best options for us to help the divorce go smoothly - made time to call/email when new options were available to us. Engaging and clear about the process.”
    - Former Client
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Why Choose Andy Cook Law?

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  • Highly Responsive & Prompt
    When you need us, you'll get us. We prioritize fast communication and regular updates.
  • With You at Every Step
    We guide you through the legal process and make sure you never wonder about the status of your case.
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