San Francisco Child Custody Attorney

Child Custody Laws California

Keith F. Carr, San Francisco child custody attorney, represents parents in child custody, child visitation, and child support matters as part of their divorce proceeding. This time in the family court litigation is very critical for clients as the divorce and child custody proceeding usually are very contentious and emotional. Parents’ conversations are usually heated with child custody and child support on the line.

The Law Offices of Keith F. Carr and Mr. Carr can represent clients to break through this crucial period and obtain a settlement of the issues of child custody, child visitation, and child support, or bring the matter before court without settling. We have 35 years experience in child custody, child visitation cases.

Child Custody

Child custody can broadly be divided into two types, legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Parents can share joint legal custody, and each will be able to make decisions regarding the child’s health, education and welfare. In other words, the parents jointly make decisions regarding the child’s health care provider, education, child care provider, religion, etc.

When the court does not require mutual consent from each of the parents sharing legal custody, either parent acting alone may exercise legal control of the child. The court may award sole legal custody to one of the parents. Then that parent will make all decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare.

Physical Custody

Likewise, the parents may either share joint physical custody or claim sole custody for one parent. Joint physical custody means parents share a significant amount of time ensuring that the child has “frequent and continuing contact with both parents.” Family Code 3004. In other words, the child can be said to live with both parents.

Or it is possible (and even usual) that one parent claim sole physical custody of the child. If the parties agree to a joint custody parental plan, then the custodial arrangement is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.

Best Interest Test

Courts in California award legal and physical custody above-mentioned by determining what manner of custody is in the best interests of the child. Courts have very broad discretion in their decisions. 

In making a reasonable child custody and visitation order, the court must consider three rules:

  1. The child’s health, safety, and welfare. Children have to be kept safe and free from abuse.
  2. The court must ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce.
  3. Where the court can satisfy both of the above policies, then they are both applied equally. When the first two policies are in conflict, then the first policy regarding the health and safety of the child shall take precedence.

There is no “standard” schedule of child custody and visitation. However, courts generally prefer to institute a custodial arrangement that the parties were currently utilizing prior to the hearing, especially with minors. In other words, courts prefer to maintain the status quo if possible. This is one reason that prior to litigation, a parent may attempt to deny or increase custody or visitation to another parent as a means to gain advantage in the upcoming hearing.

A minor child may wish to express his or her feeling regarding child custody arrangements. The court may consider such child’s opinions to those children of sufficient age. In general, a child who is 14 or older must be permitted to address the court regarding custody or visitation unless it is not in the child’s best interest.

Mandatory Mediation

When custody or visitation is contested, the parties must submit to mediation. This applies to both temporary and permanent custody or visitation orders. Family Code 3160. Mandatory mediation is also required when a stepparent or grandparent applies for a visitation order with the court.

The mediation will generally occur before the hearing on custody or visitation. The mediator will help the parents to resolve any disputes for child custody or visitation. Under California law, the primary purposes of the mediation are to: (1) reduce acrimony of the parents and other parties ;(2) To develop an agreement assuring the child close and continuing contact with both parents; and (3) To achieve a settlement of visitation rights.

In addition, if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the judge can order a child custody evaluation for a fee. The court-appointed evaluator, a trained psychologist usually, will conduct an investigation of the case and make a recommendation to the court as to an appropriate parenting plan.


The court must grant the noncustodial, usually the father, visitation rights to his child regardless of whether physical custody is joint or sole. The visitation must be in the child’s best interest. The visitation must be ordered, in the short term, on a temporary basis, and will provide a visitation schedule for the father.

It is crucial that both parents have frequent and continuing contact with their child. An order that denies a request for visitation may be made only on a finding by the court that visitation would be a detriment to the child.


Parents will need to address a parenting plan in a divorce case for their minor child or children. The courts strive to make custody determinations focusing on the child’s best interest. Having competent legal representation by the Law Offices of Keith F. Carr will help you to obtain a settlement of child custody, child visitation, and child support issues, or prevail in your case before the court without settling. The Law Offices of Keith F. Carr can represent clients dealing with various custody disputes and parenting plans in California. Potential clients can have confidence in our ability to handle their specific situation professionally. To consult with Attorney Keith F. Carr and discuss your child custody situation, schedule a telephone consultation today.


How Can a Father Get 50/50 Custody in California?

The parents can agree to allow a 50/50 child custody parent arrangement. Likewise, the court can approve of such an arrangement after hearing. On the other hand, a 50/50 custody arrangement will serve to minimize the child support calculation for the supporting parent.

What types of custody arrangements are there?

Custody will be a matter at issue before the court, unless the parties agree. Custody can be divided into legal custody and physical custody. Joint legal custody allows both parents to make health, education, and welfare decisions with regard to their child.

A child’s physical living situation is called physical custody. Physical custody may be joint, shared between the parents, or sole. Where physical custody is “sole”, this means one parent is awarded physical custody of the child, with the noncustodial parent being allowed visitation rights.

How much does a lawyer cost?

If the parties agree to a parenting plan involving custody and visitation issues, then an attorney may charge a fixed attorney fee. However, usually, custody and visitation issues are not agreed to so easily. The attorney would charge an hourly rate at that point, from $300 to more than $500 per hour for experienced attorneys. The hourly fee will be very expensive over the course of the custody case with a number of hearings that occur. The parties are advised to seek agreement as to custody and visitation early in the case.

About Author

Keith F. Carr is an attorney practicing Divorce, Estate Planning, and Bankruptcy. Attorney Keith F. Carr has over 30 years experience. Founder of Law Offices of Keith F. Carr, located in San Francisco, San Jose, and Palo Alto, Ca.

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