Family Court Services

Family Court Services

Family Court Services (FCS) provides child custody recommending counseling in family law cases when separating or divorcing parents cannot agree on a child custody sharing plan.

Child custody recommending counseling is provided in a private counseling office with a Family Court Counselor. The FCS conference allows both parents to work together toward a mutually acceptable agreement which is in the best interest of the children. The FCS session will last approximately 1.5 - 2.5 hours. For additional information, view the Family Court Services Orientation Video, also available in Spanish.

Mandatory Child Custody Recommending Counseling

In any dissolution matter regarding child custody and visitation where there is a dispute, Family Code § 3170 mandates that the case be set for child custody recommending counseling prior to the court hearing. If agreement is reached, it is reported to the court (through the attorneys) and thus the court hearing may be cancelled since the family made its own decision. If no agreement is reached, a recommendation will be made by the Family Court Counselor and the court hearing will proceed.

The Purpose of Family Court Services

Consistent with the spirit of California law, the purpose of Family Court Services is to:

  1. Assist families in the settlement of domestic controversies involving the welfare of children where there is an action in Family Court.
  2. Try to ensure children get frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the dissolution of marriage or end of a relationship.
  3. Encourage parents to cooperate and share the rights and responsibilities of parenting during and following a dissolution.
  4. Investigate guardianship cases scheduled for the Probate Court when the prospective guardian is a relative of the child. (Probate Code § 1513 & Family Code § 3110).

Legal Terms Relating to Child Custody

Visitation: The designated time in which the non-custodial parent shall have responsibility of the children.

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.

Guardianship Investigations

Family Court Services is also responsible for providing investigations of proposed guardians, who are relatives of children whose parents are otherwise unable to meet the best interest of the children (Probate Code § 1513). The Family Law Facilitator's Office offers information and workshops concerning guardianship matters.

Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities

Reasonable accommodations will be made so disabled individuals may participate in the FCS appointment process. For accommodation requests, please complete the Disability Accommodation Request (SDSC Form #ADM-410) and submit it to the business office at the court location where the accommodation is needed. For additional information, please refer to the court’s ADA page.

Child Care During Child Custody Recommending Counseling Session

Please do not bring your child(ren) unless a counselor has requested you do so. While supervised children’s waiting rooms are available at each courthouse, space is limited and on a first come, first served basis. If you have minor children, you are encouraged to make other child care arrangements while at the courthouse for a child custody recommending counseling session. If your minor child does accompany you during your visit, please be advised that you may be asked to return at a later date if having your child with you makes it difficult to provide service.

Helping Children With Divorce

In order to help children cope with the family transition, the following points are suggested:

  1. Explain the divorce to the child at his or her level of understanding without placing blame.
  2. Always allow the child to express feelings of hurt, anger, etc.
  3. Reinforce to the child that he or she is not to blame and that both parents will continue to provide love and care for him/her.
  4. Do not carry on arguments with the other parent in the child's presence or within his/her hearing.
  5. Allow the child to speak with other children who have experienced divorce.
  6. Seek professional counseling when appropriate.
  7. Do not use the child as a spy between parents' households.
  8. Encourage contact between the child and the other parent's extended family (e.g. grandparents, aunts and uncles).
  9. Do not speak disparagingly of the other parent to the child and do not ask the child to be loyal to only one parent.

Parenting and Treatment Resources

The Family Court Counselors may recommend counseling or community resources to assist the family.

For information on parenting education programs, substance abuse testing/treatment, counseling services for domestic violence/anger management and a variety of other services, visit our Program Resource List.

For information on supervised visitation, visit the Professional Providers of Supervised Visitation List.