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The Office of Family Court Services is
located at the Superior Court of California,
County of Kings, located at 1426 South Dr. Hanford, California.
The hours of operation are from 8:00 a.m. to
4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday and Friday 8:00 am. to 11:30 am. Formal Mediation appointments are
held at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The Office of Family Court Services performs
Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC) and evaluation services, under-age marriage
permissions, and probate, guardianship and step-parent
Child custody recommending counseling is provided free of
charge to the parties. Mediation may include, but is not limited to,
interviews with the parents, children, other parties who may be
legally joined to the case, and other individuals who may have
information about the situation.
To receive mediation services, customers
must have an established Family Law case in Kings County.
Services are made available either by filing for a court hearing and
then being referred for mediation services or by the filing of a
Petition for Mediation.
Mediation services may also be provided during the Court procedure
if both parties agree to meet informally with a CCRC.
If a Domestic Violence Restraining Order is
in place, or if allegations of domestic violence have been made by
one party against the other party, the parties are entitled to
separate mediation sessions and customers are advised to inform the
Courtroom Clerk or the in-Court CCRC of the restraining orders
prior to the setting of the mediation appointments (Family
Code Section 3044).
Family Code Section 3044 En Espanol
Family Code section 3170 requires mediation whenever
issues of custody or visitation are in dispute. This applies
whenever a "party to the case" wants to obtain or change a
custody or visitation order and the other party does not agree
to the change.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of negotiation
between people with the help of a professional mediator who
will assist them in reaching an agreement regarding custody
and parenting issues
Court Services (FCS) mediation is provided free of charge to the
parties and generally occurs before the first court
What is the purpose of Mediation?
The purpose of mediation is:
help reduce the hostility that may exist between the
develop an agreement that assures the child(ren) frequent
and continuing contact with both parents and that assures
the health, safety and welfare of the child(ren).
achieve a resolution of the issues of custody and rights to
parenting time that is in the best interest of the child(ren).
What does Mediation include?
Mediation may include, but is not limited
to, interviews with the parents, child(ren), other parties who
may be legally joined to the case, and other individuals who
may have information about the situation.
Mediation also includes gathering
information by the CCRC of the "Social History" and other
documents important to the case that may be submitted by
When does Mediation occur?
Generally mediation occurs approximately
two weeks after the scheduled court hearing on disputed
custody and visitation issues. There will be a date
approximately three weeks after the mediation for a return to
Court to review the CCRC’s report.
Who conducts the Mediation?
The court employs experienced Family Law
Counselors who have Master’s Degrees and specialized training
in areas pertaining to children and families. These areas
include, but are not limited to, conflict resolution,
parenting techniques, children’s developmental stages,
domestic violence, substance abuse, and child abuse and
What if we can’t reach an agreement during Mediation?
In most cases, parties can successfully
resolve and agree on custody and parenting time issues.
However, if the parties are unable to reach a full or even
partial agreement, the CCRC will prepare a written
recommendation to the court on the issues that the parties
have been unable to agree on.
some cases, especially where there is a great deal of
hostility between parents or serious allegations such as abuse
or neglect, the CCRC may recommend a temporary custody
and/or parenting plan and also recommend that the court order
a custody evaluation before making permanent orders. However,
the CCRC can only make recommendations. It is the judge
who will make the final decision.
What is a custody evaluation?
A custody evaluation is an in-depth
investigation into the facts of the case. This may include,
but is not limited to, interviews with the parents, children,
other parties who may be legally joined to the case, and other
individuals who may have information about the situation. The
investigation may also include evaluations written by other
mental health professionals, or other important reports (i.e.,
court records, police reports, etc.) relating to the family.
The CCRC may also visit the home or the school site as
evaluation generally takes up to 90 days to complete and the
parties must pay a fee for this service.
When you appear in Family Court and are
unable to resolve issues of custody or visitation, you will be
given a day and time to meet with the next available Child Custody Recommending Counselor - CCRC.
Can I submit information to FCS before my mediation
You may submit any documents you wish the
CCRC to consider prior to mediation. However, the
documents must be provided to the other party and provided to
the CCRC not less than five (5) days prior to the
Mediation appointment. The only exception to this would be for
public records such as school attendance and grade reports.
Again, all other information submitted to FCS by one party
must be served on the other party (or parties if there are
other individuals legally joined to the case). The following
policies apply to submission of all information (including
written documents, audio and video tapes, and photographs):
more than twenty-five (25) pages of written documentation
may be submitted to FCS;
Information must be submitted at least five calendar days
before the mediation appointment;
Proof of Service form stating that the other party was also
provided with copies of this information must be submitted
with all documents. Information that does not have a Proof
of Service attached will not be considered by the CCRC;
Audiotapes will not be considered if the party was unaware
that he/she was being taped.
Can I talk to the CCRC before the mediation appointment?
"Ex parte contact" is not allowed by
parties or attorneys at any time prior to completion of the
report. Ex parte contact means one party (or attorney)
contacting the CCRC without the other party being present
or having knowledge of the nature of the discussion.
Ex parte contact after the report is
completed is permissible. However, if the CCRC receives
information following completion of the report and believes an
addendum is necessary, the CCRC must make the "new"
information known to the other party.
What if I miss my mediation appointment?
Because of the short time frame between
the mediation appointment and the court hearing, another
appointment cannot be scheduled. If the other party attends as
scheduled, it will be noted for the Court file. If time
allows, the CCRC may attempt to reach you by telephone.
If both parties fail to attend mediation,
the appointment will be dropped and the court notified of your
failure to attend. If this occurs, it is important that you
still appear at the court hearing on the date scheduled.
However, both parties should be prepared to provide an
explanation to the judge why they were unable to attend
Do children attend mediation?
NO, DO NOT BRING CHILDREN TO
THE MEDIATION APPOINTMENT. IF THE CCRC WISHES TO SPEAK
TO THE CHILDREN, AN APPOINTMENT WILL BE SET BY THE CCRC.
Are both parties interviewed together?
Yes. CCRCs interview both parties together. The exception
to this policy is if there has been an alleged history of
domestic violence, or when there is a protective order in
effect and one party has requested separate interviews.
I have a domestic violence restraining
order. May I bring a support person?
Yes. A support person may accompany you
to the mediation appointment. However, the support person
cannot participate in, and is required to maintain
confidentiality of, the mediation session.
A CCRC may exclude a support person
from a session if:
support person attempts to participate in the session;
support person acts as an advocate for the victim in a
support person’s presence or actions disrupt the session.
At the conclusion of your mediation
session, the CCRC will identify in writing those issues on
which you reached an agreement as well as those issues on
which you were unable to reach agreement. This is known as the
mentioned, the CCRC will make a written recommendation to
the court on any issues that have not been resolved during
mediation. A copy of this report will be mailed to you, or
your attorney if you are represented, at the Office of Family
Court Services five (5) calendar days before your court
What if I don’t agree with the CCRC’s
If you received mediation upon direct
referral from the court, or as a result of you or the other
party filing an OSC/NOM, you already have a court date set. If
you do not agree with the CCRC’s recommendations, you may
state your position to the judge during your court hearing. Be
prepared to give specific
information to the judge as to why you disagree with any of
the CCRC’s recommendations.
If your mediation occurred as a result of
either party filing a Petition for Mediation, no court date
has been set. Therefore, the recommendation will not be
reviewed and acted on by a judge until one of the parties
files an OSC/NOM. Once that occurs, you will be given a date
to appear in court. At that court appearance, you may tell the
judge why you disagree with the recommendation.
What if we reach a full agreement during mediation?
If you were able to reach an agreement
with the other party on all custody and visitation issues, the
CCRC will still prepare a written report and provide a copy to each party or their legal
representative. The CCRC’s report will indicate the
agreement of the parties and recommend that the Court adopt
Do we still go to court if we reach an agreement?
Are mediation reports confidential?
Yes. Mediation reports are confidential
and are not allowed to be copied or distributed to anyone
other than the court, an attorney of record, or the named
parties to the proceeding, with the following exception:
In certain instances the court allows the
exchange of information to other agencies in the justice
system. Specific information can be obtained from FCS.
Custody evaluation recommendations and
The custody evaluation report will
provide recommendations that are based on the professional
judgment of the child custody evaluator regarding a parenting
plan that is in the best interests of the child(ren).
How long does it take to complete a
Generally the court will continue your
case for ninety (90) days if a custody evaluation has been
ordered. During this time, FCS will conduct interviews,
collect and review information, and write their
Will I receive a copy of the report?
Yes. If attorneys represent both parties,
a copy of the recommendation will be mailed to your attorney.
If only one or neither of you are represented by an attorney,
then a copy will be mailed to you.
Is the recommendation an order of the
A FCS report and recommendation has no
legal status until the court acts on it. A party who wishes to
have the report adopted must appear at a scheduled court
hearing. If both parties are in agreement, the court may
approve the FCS recommendations, or the court may decide to
make other orders. If either party disagrees with the FCS
recommendation, the matter may be set for further court
How much will a custody evaluation cost?
Custody evaluations, when ordered by the court and conducted
by FCS, are charged at the rate of $75.00 per hour. If
a custody evaluation is ordered, the court will make a
determination as to the parties’ ability to pay. If the court
finds that either party is able to pay all, or part, of the
expense of the evaluation, the court will make an order
requiring repayment to the court.
Are there any other options available?
Yes. You may choose to use the services of a private evaluator
instead of returning to FCS for the custody evaluation. The
court has a list of private CCRCs who are approved to
conduct court-ordered child custody evaluations. Private
CCRCs charge a fee that is usually higher than the fee
charged by FCS. If you prefer to use the services of a private
CCRC for the custody evaluation, you should mention this
to judge at the time of your hearing.
CCRC conflict of interest
Mediation/evaluation of cases that
involve family law attorneys or their spouses, relatives,
friends, or co-workers of the CCRC may present a conflict
of interest. It is the policy of the court to avoid conflicts
or the appearance of a conflict of interest. Therefore, in
these cases, parties may be referred to private mediators
unless both parties agree to waive any objection.
If parties agree to waive the conflict of
interest objection, CCRCs will mediate and make
recommendations as needed. A CCRC will not handle a case
in which they perceive that a serious conflict of interest
Petitions for Mediation
If you have an existing Kings County
case, you may be able to obtain free mediation services
without filing an Order to Show Cause or Notice of Motion. You
can do this by filing a
Agreement for Mediation
directly with Court Clerks in Hanford, California. Upon the
filing of a petition, an appointment will be scheduled for you
to meet with a CCRC. If, during the mediation session, you
reach a full agreement with the other party, FCS will assist
you in submitting that agreement to the Court to become an
order. If you do not reach a full
agreement, FCS will prepare a mediation report with
recommendations on the issues you disagree on. This report
does not become a court order until you appear in court. To
set a hearing date you must file an Order to Show Cause or
Notice of Motion. Following is a list of policies applying to
Petitions for Mediation:
one party files a petition for mediation with FCS, the
notice of appointment for orientation and mediation will be
mailed to both parties.
Mediation appointments will be set no later than 28 days
following the date the petition was filed.
Parties are only allowed to file one Petition for Mediation
during a six-month period.
party files a Petition for Mediation and the court
subsequently makes an order for private mediation, the order
for private mediation shall supercede the Petition for
Mediation and the FCS appointment shall be cancelled.
Reports to Child Protective Services
Family Court CCRC/Investigators 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). Parties will be
informed when referrals are made to CPS for risk assessment.
Complaints about FCS services
Family Court Services is committed to the delivery of quality
mediation, evaluation and investigation services. If you
should have a complaint regarding services received, you may
register your complaint orally or in writing to the FCS
Mediation Manager at 559-582-1010 or 1426 South Dr. Hanford,
A rate of $75.00 per hour is charged for
custody evaluations. If the court orders a custody evaluation,
the court will make a determination as to the parties’ ability
to pay. If the court finds that either party is able to pay
all or part of the expense, the court may make an order
requiring that person repay the court for the amount the court
deposit of $150.00 is required any time a FCS
CCRC/evaluator is subpoenaed to attend a court hearing or
proceeding as a witness. The party issuing the subpoena will
be charged, at the rate of $59.00 per hour, for the actual
time spent preparing for court testimony and/or deposition
and the actual time spent testifying.
Testimony and depositions
The following rules apply to the subpoena
of a CCRC/evaluator:
CCRC/evaluator is to be examined in court, he/she must
rules apply to the subpoena of a
subpoena, by personal service, 5 working days before the
time constraints, it is recommended that the party issuing
the subpoena contact FCS 20 days before the court hearing to
determine the CCRC/evaluator’s availability.