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Family Court Services (FCS)

General Information

Child Custody Recommending Counseling

Important Things to Know Before Mediation

Important Things to Know After Mediation

Child Custody Evaluations

Other Important Information

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General Information

The Office of Family Court Services is located at the Lemoore Division of the Superior Court of California, County of Kings, located at 449 “C” Street in Lemoore, California.

The hours of operation are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. 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 adoption investigations.

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

Child Custody Recommending Counseling - CCRC

Mandated Mediation

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

Family Court Services (FCS) mediation is provided free of charge to the parties and generally occurs before the first court appearance.

 

What is the purpose of Mediation?

The purpose of mediation is:
  1. To help reduce the hostility that may exist between the parties;
  2. To 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).
  3. To 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 either party.

 

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 neglect.
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.

In 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 appropriate.

A custody evaluation generally takes up to 90 days to complete and the parties must pay a fee for this service.

 

Important Things to Know Before Mediation

Setting appointments 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 appointment? 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):
  • No 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;
  • A 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 mediation.

 

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:

  1. The support person attempts to participate in the session;
  2. The support person acts as an advocate for the victim in a session;
  3. The support person’s presence or actions disrupt the session.

 

Important Things to Know After Mediation

Mediation report 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 Mediation Report.

As previously 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 hearing date.

 

What if I don’t agree with the CCRC’s recommendations? 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 the agreement.
Do we still go to court if we reach an agreement? Yes.
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.

 

Child Custody Evaluations

Custody evaluation recommendations and reports 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 custody evaluation? 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 evaluation report.
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 court? 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 hearings.
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.

Other Important Information

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 exists.

 

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:
  • When 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.
  • If a 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 559-924-7757 or 449 “C” Street, Lemoore, California, 93245.
FCS fees 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 determines appropriate.

A 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:

 

  1. If the CCRC/evaluator is to be examined in court, he/she must receivThe following rules apply to the subpoena of a e the subpoena, by personal service, 5 working days before the court hearing;
  2. Due to 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.

 

 

 

 
Superior Court of California, Kings County
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