Family Court Services
The Purpose of Family Court Services
Consistent with the spirit of California Law, the purpose of Family Court Services is to:
- Assist families in the settlement of domestic controversies involving the welfare of children where there is an action in Family Court.
- Try to ensure children get frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the dissolution of marriage or end of a relationship.
- Encourage parents to cooperate and share the rights and responsibilities of parenting during and following a dissolution.
Mediation is a process of assisting parents in developing a parenting plan and is a neutral setting for discussing arrangements for the children, and to reduce the acrimony and provide guidelines for parenting after separation or divorce.
Mediation is provided in a private counseling office with a mediator/child custody recommending counselor. The mediation conference allows both parents to work together towards a mutually acceptable agreement that is in the best interest of the child(ren). The mediation session will last approximately 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours. For additional information, view Mediation Orientation.
Although mediators are experienced in counseling, mediation is not counseling. A neutral mediator meets with both parents and helps them try to agree on a plan that is the best for them and their child(ren).
The guidelines for mediation are to treat each other and the mediator with respect, listen to each other to find real solutions, put the child(ren) first, and think about the child(ren)'s needs and what they can handle.
Please do not bring children to any part of the mediation process unless asked to do so by the judge or Mediator/Child Custody Recommending Counselor. Childcare services are not provided at the Hall of Justice.
If there is a dispute in a dissolution matter regarding child custody and visitation, Family Code § 3170 mandates that the case be set for mediation prior to the court hearing.
Mediation, in these circumstances, is a mandatory process. If an agreement is reached during mediation, an agreement will be drafted and delivered to both parents to review and sign prior to review and approval by the judge. If parents do not reach an agreement on issues during mediation, a recommendation will be prepared by the Mediator/Child Custody Recommending Counselor and submitted to the Judge for review. Please note the Judge, not the Mediator, will make the final decision on the parenting plan.
For immediate referral to mediation:
- Fill out item 2 on your FL-300 – Request for Order form.
- After filing your Request for Order packet with the clerk's office and after the other party has been served in a timely manner, contact the court to schedule an appointment for mediation.
- You must provide a copy of your Proof of Service to the court before an appointment can be scheduled.
- Prior to your mediation appointment, you will need to fill out and submit an Intake Packet.
Mediation Intake Packet
- Prior to your mediation appointment, you must complete Orientation.
Please note that it is imperative for both parties to attend in order for mediation to occur. Therefore, if both parties have not confirmed their attendance with our office two court days prior to their appointment, the appointment will be canceled. However, if domestic violence is an issue in your case you may request separate sessions and/or bring a support person with you. A significant other will not be permitted to serve as a support person.
Prior to the first mediation appointment, both parents are required to complete Online Orientation.
For additional information, see the Mediation FAQs section towards the bottom of this page.
The Judge may order supervised visitation in custody cases where there are concerns for a child's emotional or physical well-being. Supervised visitation provides a highly structured and child-friendly environment to ensure the safety and welfare of the child during parent-child interaction.
A Guide for Non-Professional Providers – Supervising a visitation is an important job to supervise a parent's visits with his or her child(ren). This guide answers common questions about being a provider of supervised visitation.
All Non-Professional Providers must complete and file a Declaration of Supervised Visitation Provider (Nonprofessional). This document must be completed by the person providing the supervised visitation.
See Local Rules of Court, Rule 12.2 – Supervised Visitations for additional information.
Timeshare: The designated time in which the non-custodial parent shall have responsibility of the children, or the specific time allotted to each parent.
Legal Custody: The rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of their children.
Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.
Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.
Physical Custody: How much time the children spend with each parent; where the children live; how day-to-day responsibilities are fulfilled.
Joint Physical Custody: Children spend a significant amount of time with each parent.
Sole Physical Custody: Children reside primarily with one parent and spend far less time with the other parent.
Joint Custody: This term means both joint legal and physical custody. Parents agree to share it all.
Visitation: Times when one parent has the children and is fully responsible for them.
Supervised Visitation: Visitation is limited to special situations in which a third party, specified by the court, is present. Supervised, monitored visitation may occur when there is a need to protect children because of drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, family violence, or other serious problems, or when children are getting to know an absent parent.
Mediation is a form of conflict resolution, in which parents sit down with a neutral professional, the Mediator/CCRC, and attempt to resolve their differences concerning the appropriate parenting plan for their child(ren). The Mediator's job is to provide a safe place for each person to speak and be heard. The Mediator also provides information about the effects of parental separation, the developmental needs of their child(ren), and how to effectively share parenting responsibilities so as to meet the needs of their child(ren) in the future.
Mediation provides parents the unique opportunity to have self-determination in the decision making process regarding their child(ren). Most of the time parents are able to see beyond their own immediate needs and, with the help of a Mediator, work together to develop a parenting plan that serves the best interests of their child(ren).
Then mediation does not result in a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan, the Mediator is required to file a written report and recommendation to the court. Both parents will receive a copy of this report and recommendation.
Please keep in mind, if the parents are unable to reach an agreement in mediation, it is the judge who will make the final decision as to what the appropriate parenting plan will be, not the Mediator. The Mediator's recommendation is only one of several factors the judge will consider in making the parenting plan decision. Each parent will be given an opportunity to present their position to the judge at the appropriate time.
Mediators are professionals with education and training in child and family development. The key focus for the Mediator is to create an atmosphere in which parents can communicate more effectively about future parenting arrangements and to help parents determine what is in the best interest of their child(ren).
Generally, mediation sessions take between 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours depending on the complexity of the case. If the child(ren) need(s) to be interviewed, then additional time will be scheduled to interview the child(ren).
The most important thing you can do is complete your intake packet and orientation. The intake packets and orientation can also be completed on the computers in the Access to Justice Center - Self-Help area of the Hall of Justice. The intake packet is meant to provide the mediator with background information for what will be discussed during mediation. The orientation provides you, the parent information on how to prepare for your mediation session so your situation is clearly conveyed and you can move forward with your case. Both parents need to complete both the intake packet and the orientation before mediation.
Family Court Services provides an online orientation for parents who have a mediation appointment. The parties are required by the court to complete the online orientation before their scheduled meeting with a mediator. This is a mandatory program. If you do not have access to the internet, the orientation will also be available on the computers in the Access to Justice Center - Self-Help area of the Hall of Justice. The judge will be notified if you do not complete orientation.
In most cases, parents are best able to design a successful parenting plan for their children when working collaboratively. While it may be awkward or difficult to be in the same room with the other parent, it is important to listen to each other's concerns about their children. Parents will be able to hear each other's point of view and begin to focus on the best interests of their children.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence you may request a separate mediation appointment after completing the intake packet and orientation. Family Court Services will not tell the other parent the date and time of your appointment. If you choose to attend at the same time as the other parent you will be permitted to bring a support person, not related to the case, with you to the session. That person may be in the room, but will not participate in any way in the mediation itself. We will also offer you a separate place to wait for your appointment. Information about your address, telephone number, employer, and children's school will not be made available to the other parent. Please let the mediator know your wishes.
Generally, if you have alleged that you are a victim of domestic violence, you will have the opportunity to have a 'support person' attend Mediation with you. Generally, the 'support person' can be any individual that the victim chooses, must be 18 years of age or older and cannot be the attorney for either party. A 'support person' is present to provide emotional support to the victim. A 'support person' shall not be present as a legal advisor and shall not give legal advice. Attorneys will NOT be approved as 'support persons' and will be excluded from all Mediation sessions. A 'support person' may be asked to leave a Mediation session, if their presence is disruptive, acts as an advocate, and/or the 'support person' is prompting, swaying, or influencing the other party.
Both parents should attend.
Do not, under any circumstances, bring your children to the appointment unless requested to do so by the mediator or ordered to do so by the judge.
In some instances, the mediator may find it necessary to interview the children. This will be arranged by the parents and the mediator after the parents have completed their mediation. If the mediator sequesters to interview the child(ren), the mediator will explain the process to the parents in detail. Relatives and attorneys are not usually permitted to be present at mediation.
The parents were ordered by the judge to attend mediation. Failure to do so is a violation of a court order. If one of the parents does not arrive on time for the mediation appointment, after a 15-minutes grace period, the mediation will be canceled. This court is a recommending court. If the parents do not reach a full agreement, the Mediator is required to make a recommendation to the judge. The Mediator cannot make a recommendation if both parents are not present for the assigned appointment.
In the case of domestic violence, a separate appointment is arranged in advance and a recommendation can be made even though the parents are seen separately.
The judge will be notified in writing if a parent cancels, does not show for the appointment, or is late.
If there is a full agreement reached at mediation, the notes of the Mediator and the mediation file are confidential. If there is not an agreement and the Mediator makes a recommendation to the court, the records are not confidential. If children or others are interviewed or other information is obtained, this additional information also may not be confidential. The Mediator may be called to testify in your case in court.
No. Generally, the Mediator is unable to engage in "ex parte communication" regarding your case without the other party being present or having knowledge of the conversation. Exceptions include scheduling appointments, addressing domestic violence issues, mandated reporting, investigating conflicts of interest, and addressing complaints. Also, any type of communication given by one parent to the Mediator must be given to the other parent and a Family Court Services Proof of Service completed prior to review by the Mediator.
When parents reach an agreement in mediation, the plan is prepared as a legal document by the Mediator. You will receive a copy. Parents who do not have an attorney will sign the agreement and it will be submitted to the judge at the assigned court date. If a parent has an attorney, the parent will review the document with his/her attorney before the court date. The agreement is not a binding court order until signed by the judge.
When the judge ordered you to mediation you were given a date to come back to court to present the results of the mediation to the judge. On this date your agreement will be reviewed by the judge. If acceptable to him/her it will be signed and made an Order of the Court.
If the parents are unable to reach a full agreement in mediation, the Mediator is required to provide the court with a recommended parenting plan. In preparing the recommendation, the mediator may contact collateral sources such as teachers, daycare providers, etc. to gather additional information.
At the time the judge ordered you to mediation, you were given a date to come back to court to present the results of the mediation to the judge. Prior to this date, both parents will receive a copy of the mediator's report and recommendation. At this next court hearing, the judge will discuss available options with the parents, one of which is setting the matter on the issue of custody and visitation.
No. Mediation is for parenting matters. For assistance with financial issues or property issues, you can seek assistance from your attorney or the Family Law Facilitator/Self-Help Attorney, if you are unrepresented.
Mediators are "mandated reporters." This means they are legally obligated to report to Child Protective Services (CPS) any situation that may pose an imminent danger or risk to the child(ren).
No. The Mediator cannot force the other party to participate in Mediation. If you have not been contacted to schedule an appointment, please contact Family Court Services at (530) 251-8205. If the other party has not responded, you will need to file a motion with the court to request the orders you were seeking. If you are not represented by an attorney, you can contact the Self Help Attorney at (530) 251-3935 and schedule an appointment to help you complete the necessary forms to put your matter on calendar.
A "custodian" is a person who "guards or protects" someone else. In a court of law, child custody means the appointing of one or more persons to take care of and control a child under the age of 18 years.
In the State of California, there are several types of child custody:
- Physical custody means who the child lives with most of the time;
- Legal custody means who has the right and responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child.
The physical and legal custody of the child may be "sole" or "joint."
- Sole physical custody means that the child will live with and be under the supervision of one parent. (The court may order that the other parent has some rights to visit the child.)
- Joint physical custody means that each of the parents will have significant periods of physical custody.
- Sole legal custody means that one parent will have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child.
- Joint legal custody means that both parents will share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child.
In general, after parents separate, it is considered best if the child(ren) has frequent and continuing contact with both parents and that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child(ren).
Court-ordered child custody usually ends when:
- the child turns 18 years of age;
- the child gets married or joins the military;
- the court ends the support or custody; or
- the child dies before the age of 18;
whichever occurs first.
In California, on a person's 18th birthday, he or she has reached the "age of majority" and is considered an adult. From that date, the laws of child custody no longer apply.
You are advised to speak to an attorney to determine the proper way to proceed. If you are a self-represented litigant, you can seek information from the Self-Help Attorney or Family Law Facilitator.
NO. Access to the child(ren) for visitation and payment of child support are two separate issues. If you are having trouble seeing your child(ren) when you are scheduled to do so, or if the other parent is preventing you from seeing your child(ren) according to the court order, you need to return to court to address your current situation.
Supervised Visitation provides a highly structured, safe, and protected setting for parent-child contact when such contact presents risk due to high conflict surrounding parental separation, child abuse or neglect, flight risk or child abduction, or after an extended interruption of contact.
The emphasis is on neutrality: the monitor is an observer, intervening only when the emotional or physical safety of the child(ren) is threatened, or when program guidelines are broken.
The monitor is the "eyes and ears of the court" and can provide objective information required by the court or mediator.
There are two types of supervision:
- Professional supervision, where the visits are paid for with an hourly dee and a trained professional follows State Guidelines to supervise the visit.
- Non-professional supervision, when a family member or friend is agreed upon or someone specific is ordered by the court to supervise the visits and to follow State Guidelines for non-professional visits.
See Local Rules of Court, Rule 12.2 – Supervised Visitations for additional information