family court services
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Family Court Services serves parties who need to file for Dissolution, Separation or Nullity of Marriage; Establishment of Parental Relationship, Petitions for Custody and Support, Motions for Child Custody, Support, or Visitation, Support Enforcement, Guardianship of Minors, Adoption, or who seek protection from Domestic Violence, Civil Harassment, Workplace Violence or Elder Abuse. Parties who need assistance filing any of the paperwork associated with custody, support, or protection can find assistance in our Self-Help center either through appointments or classes.
- Family Court Services
- Phone: 559-730-5000
- Child custody and visitation mediation is mandated in Family Code section 3160 and is part of the process of Child Custody Recommending Counseling. However, if you are referred to Family Court Services and mediation is not successful, the child custody recommending counselor will provide information and recommendations to the court in writing before your court hearing
- Limited investigation in child custody cases may be conducted when ordered by the court, as provided in Family Code section 3112.
- Pre-marital interviews for juveniles who petition for a marriage license, per Family Code sections 302 and 304.
- Investigation of Guardianship and Conservatorship petitions pursuant to Probate Code sections 1513 and 1826.
- Stepparent adoption investigations on requests for adoption, pursuant to Family Code section 9001. Click here for local forms and instructions for filing in Tulare County
The following links provide interactive experiences for kids, teens/preteens, parents, and professionals for learning about what to expect during and after a separation or divorce.
This is the process in which parents who disagree over the custody and/or visitation of their children meet with a counselor in a neutral setting to mediate and work on their own parenting plan. The Family Code provides that parents shall have the opportunity and the right to present the court with their own parenting plan. The focus of the session is on the safety and welfare of your child or children and how you can best care for them as parents living separately. At the end of a session with the counselor, if you have come to an agreement, he or she will provide you and the court with a written stipulation for your signature. If you do not agree, a written report will be completed before your hearing with information from the session and recommendations for a parenting plan and referrals if necessary.
When parents are separated, the parenting plan defines legal and physical custody and time sharing of the children. It can be very general or detailed, depending on your needs, and it can include how you will share time on holidays and special occasions as well as for vacations and other events.
Divorcing clients and separating parents may contact Family Court Services, or be referred by their attorney, for mediation and child custody recommending counseling prior to their hearing date. They are also referred for counseling by the court at the time of the hearing. Parents can also schedule voluntary mediation sessions without setting the matter for a court hearing.
The counselor and the parents will meet together, unless there are issues of domestic violence, and the discussion will focus primarily on what will be in the child's best interests; to this end they will put the child's needs ahead of any other agendas in the proceedings. The counselor has been trained to help parents work out solutions to child care and cooperative parenting which will allow hostility to be reduced.
The counselor will spend some time describing terminology, asking parents what solutions they feel would be in their child's best interests, and exploring the past situation. The focus, however, is on the future, and the goal is to draw up an agreement that allows children to achieve a relationship with each parent while maintaining stability in their lives as much as possible during a stressful time. In addition, this agreement must address the health, safety, and welfare of the child.
If parents are not able to come to an agreement during the counseling session, the matter is referred back to the family court calendar. The case may be heard by a judge at that time, or another court date will be set for a contested hearing.
At the contested hearing, the report of the recommending counselor will be available for the parties and judge. It will include the issues presented in the counseling session, as well as any health, welfare, and safety concerns which were expressed. The counselor will provide recommendations to the court. If further investigation is necessary (for example, if your child needs to be interviewed, or if school records need to be received), the court may ask that Family Court Services perform a limited assessment and provide a recommendation. It may be necessary to meet more than once with the counselor to work out problems, either prior to court, or as follow-up/review sessions.
In cases that involve domestic violence, separate sessions and support persons may be used. Information regarding this is available prior to the counseling session. If you are making an appointment for mediation and child custody recommending counseling prior to the court hearing, you should inform Family Court Services if there is a restraining order in place, or if allegations of family violence have been made.
Children should not be brought to the court hearing. If, after speaking with the parents, a child needs to be interviewed, the counselor will make arrangements to do so after meeting with the parents
The law states that children's wishes will be considered when the child is "of sufficient age and capacity to reason." The judge decides when a child has attained this capacity and must only consider the child's wishes, not follow them. If the parents are unable to resolve their custody issues, a recommending counselor may ask to interview the child in order to clarify issues brought up in session. If parents can come to a decision on their own, this may not be necessary. If a child 14 or older expresses a desire to address the court, the counselor will notify the judge and arrangements will be made for that to occur.
Children should not be brought to court unless the court or the counselor has requested that they be interviewed.
The counselor is required by law to report child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities. The counselor is also required by the Family Code to report domestic violence or drug abuse.
In some custody cases, the court needs to obtain more information about family issues in order to make a custody order. A member of Family Court Services will conduct an investigation and report to the court. This can include obtaining information from schools, doctors, and therapists as well as results from assessments for drug and alcohol abuse or domestic violence. There may be a fee imposed for the investigation.
If you come to court without a plan for parenting your child or children, it is mandated in the State of California that you be referred for mediation and child custody recommending counseling so that you have the opportunity to resolve your dispute and eliminate the need for a court hearing. Our counselors realize that divorcing and separated parents and their children have pressing needs which must be met. Mother and father may feel angry and hostile, abandoned and uncertain of the future. The responsibilities of a new life and earning sufficient income may be very difficult. Fears of being separated from their children can make the situation even more traumatic.
Children too, have special needs at this time. "Who will care for me?" is in each child's mind. Their stress may be shown in any number of ways, including clinging to one parent or the other; having difficulties in school or relationships; having trouble sleeping or eating; and withdrawing from customary activities.
Working towards a cooperative parenting plan can help minimize these stresses for everyone. Maintaining continuing, conflict-free contact is also important, as are patience, open communication, and giving things time to work. Parents should refrain from making negative remarks about each other in the child's presence, and both parents must accept responsibility for their situation. Working with the counselor to develop a plan for your family can help you in this transitional time.
Family Code sections 302 and 304 require that a judge sign a court order allowing anyone under the age of 18 to get a marriage license. Parties who are under the age of 18 who wish to marry are interviewed by a counselor who provides information to the juvenile court judge. The judge then either approves or denies the request to marry. Parties are required to provide certain documentation to the counselor - our office staff can set an appointment and give you the information you need.
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 their children.
Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the children.
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.
The counselor may recommend counseling or other community resources to assist the family. These can include therapy, parenting classes, co-parenting classes, supervised visitation, therapeutic reunification, drug and alcohol assessments, domestic violence assessments and custody evaluations.