Child custody recommending counseling is a form of negotiation between people with the help of a professional counselor who will assist them in reaching an agreement regarding custody and parenting issues. If the parties do not reach an agreement during the FCS session, the counselor will submit a comprehensive written report to the court that includes, but is not limited to, a custody and visitation recommendation and the reasons for the recommendation.
The purpose of child custody recommending counseling is:
- To help reduce the hostility that may exist between the parties;
- 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).
- To achieve a resolution of the issues of custody and rights to parenting time that is in the best interest of the child(ren).
Child custody recommending counseling 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.
Child custody recommending counseling occurs before the scheduled court hearing on disputed custody and visitation issues.
The court employs experienced Family Court 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.
Do whatever you can to separate your feelings about your child's other parent from what your child needs from that parent. Take into consideration what children need from their parents and others at difference ages. Bring at least two different proposals about how your child can spend time with you and his or her other parent. Be prepared to listen to your child's other parent's ideas so that the two of you can have a discussion about what might work for everyone. Make a list of any specific concerns about your child's other parent so that they can be addressed in putting together the plan for your child.
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 Family Court Counselor 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 Family Court Counselor may recommend a temporary custody and/or parenting plan. However, the Family Court Counselor can only make recommendations. It is the judge who will make the final decision.
"Ex parte communication" is not allowed by parties or attorneys at any time before a judge has made a final decision in the case. Ex parte communication means one party (or attorney) contacting the Family Court Counselor without the other party being present or having knowledge of the nature of the discussion.
Because of the short time frame between the FCS appointment and the court hearing, another appointment cannot be scheduled. If one or both parties fail to attend child custody recommending counseling, the session will not occur 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 as to why they were unable to attend child custody recommending counseling.
No. If the Family Court Counselor needs to interview the child/ren, an interview will be scheduled for another time.
Yes. Family Court Counselors 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.
Yes. A support person may accompany you to child custody recommending counseling. However, the support person cannot participate in, and is required to maintain confidentiality of, the child custody recommending counseling session.
A Family Court Counselor may exclude a support person from a session if:
- The support person attempts to participate in the session;
- The support person acts as an advocate for the victim in a session;
- The support person's presence or actions disrupt the session.
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At the conclusion of your FCS session, the Family Court Counselor 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 FCS Report. As previously mentioned, the Family Court Counselor will make a written recommendation to the court on any issues that have not been resolved during child custody recommending counseling. The parties will receive a copy of the recommendation in writing prior to the court hearing.
Child custody recommending counseling of cases that involve family law attorneys or their spouses, relatives, friends, or co-workers of the Family Court Counselor 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 other Family Court Services sites for child custody recommending counseling.
Family Court Services Counselors 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).
Family Court Services is committed to the delivery of quality services. If you have a complaint regarding services received, you may register your complaint utilizing a Family Court Services Client Complaint Form (SDSC FCS-044) sent to the Manager of Family Court Services at 1100 Union Street 4th floor, San Diego CA 92101. A copy of that complaint must be provided to the other parent.