Our children are the most important parts of our lives. 

Whether during a divorce, or as part of a non-marital relationship, a child custody dispute can be one of the most difficult issues you will face.

You need the right guidance.


Child custody is a legal term for the relationship between parents and children.

Legal custody refers to a parent's right and responsibility to make decisions regarding a child's health, safety and welfare. Legal custody may be awarded to one parent or it may be shared between both parents.

"Physical custody" refers to who the child will live with. Physical custody can be joint or sole and involves the parenting and custody schedule. 

California courts are not permitted to prefer a parent as custodian because of that parent's sex.

A judge can issue court orders if parents cannot agree on issues relating to child custody. Child custody can be resolved in divorce or in non-marital actions.  

Whenever possible, our attorneys negotiate child custody disputes to be resolved outside of the courtroom. Contested child custody, with ongoing litigation, is rarely in a child's best interest. It's also time consuming and expensive.


That said, we know that many parents have to fight for their children. Sometimes, one parent has addiction issues or has committed domestic violence. Sometimes, parents use withholding parenting time as a weapon to hurt the other parent.

Either way, you want to work with a child custody lawyer who is prepared, thorough, responsive, and sensitive to your family's needs. It's critical to be empowered with knowledge and guidance during a child custody dispute.


Whether you were married to the other parent or not, you can seek relief relating to your parenting rights

When parents are married, California law automatically assumes that the married people are the child’s legal parents. If they are not married, the father or other parent must establish parentage. Failing to do this can impact custody, visitation, and support rights.

A parentage action can be brought by a mother, father, other parent, child, or child’s personal representative.  A judge can order DNA testing. Also, a parent can sign a a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity.

Just like in a divorce, unmarried parents may negotiate and come to a written agreement relating to child custody, visitation, and child support, and/or may seek orders from the court.


California judges have wide discretion to issue child custody orders. 


First and foremost, judges must consider the child’s health, safety, and welfare.

Second, judges are required to ensure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing -- except when such contact would not be in the best interests of the child, as a result of abuse or other issues.

California courts take a holistic view of the child's life, including academics, health, living arrangements, and more. The Court will look to balance continuity and stability with the need for frequent and continuing contact when possible.

Courts can issue orders relating to private custody evaluations, parenting plan assessments, professionally supervised visitations, parenting classes, parenting communication including on designated apps, and more.

It is almost always preferable to resolve child custody disputes outside of the courtroom. Contested child custody, with ongoing litigation, is rarely in a child's best interest. 

Believe it or not, we've seen even the most contentious child custody disputes settle -- with the right guidance. 

It's critical to take a holistic view of your child's emotional, psychological, medical, academic, social, and spiritual needs.  It's also important to take stock of each parent's temperament, strengths, weaknesses, and parenting history. 

With all of this in mind, we work to create specific, custom co-parenting plans that work for your family and negotiate in your and your child's best interest. It's possible to include specific or flexible schedules, guardrails on co-parenting communication, and more.

When needed, we also use mediators, private custody evaluations, private co-parenting counselors, parenting plan assessments, parenting classes, and professionally supervised visitations to help resolve child custody disputes out of the courtroom. 


Sometimes, parents withhold visitation as a weapon to hurt the other parent. Sometimes, one parent is overly controlling about the other's parenting time.  California courts do not approve of this conduct. It can be resolved in negotiation or via court order.


Remember: it is the public policy of the state of California for children to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.  This is because it is generally in a child's best emotional, psychological, and spiritual interest to have a relationship with each parent when possible.

In fact, withholding parenting time or obstructing visitation can actually result in a change of custody. 

If you're seeking more time with your child, consider the following:

  • Keep a record of communication and requests for visits.

  • Keep a visitation journal, inclusive of dates and times.

  • Suggest use of a co-parenting communication app or mutual co-parenting classes.

  • Always communicate respectfully and cordially with the other parent.

  • Be a participatory, active parent.

  • Remember, you have a right to your child's medical and academic records.


Co-parenting with someone who abuses drugs or alcohol is one of the hardest things a person can do. 

The number one concern is your child's safety and well being. It's critical to put guardrails in place prior to being in crisis mode.

These guardrails must take specific needs into account based on the parent's condition and the age of the child. Some options include drug and alcohol testing, restrictions on driving with the child, and professionally monitored visitation. These can be negotiated out of court or if necessary can be requested as court orders.

We have represented parents on both sides of contested custody proceedings involving allegations of addiction or abuse.


We have represented parents seeking sole custody and parents in recovery who are seeking to reunify with a child. 

We have represented parents seeking supervised visits and parents defending themselves from wrongful allegations.


These are very sensitive issues. Whether in litigation or negotiation, you need the right documentation and guidance to protect your child.


A mediator is a neutral third party who helps people resolve conflicts through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques. 

Mediation can be extremely useful for co-parenting disputes.

That said, a mediator does not advocate for you. It's important to consider hiring a child custody attorney to educate you about your parenting rights, to help evaluate offers in mediation, and to offer negotiation strategy and insight.  

You want any agreement to be one that you are fully comfortable with and for which you are fully informed. 


9107 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 450

Beverly Hills, California 90210

(310) 750-0827

We proudly serve Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, the South Bay, Glendale, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Encino and all of Los Angeles County.


© 2019 Law Office of Emily E. Rubenstein. The information on this site is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice. For legal advice, consult an attorney.