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San Diego Family Court Services FAQ

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Family law proceedings entail a broad variety of issues, such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, valuation, relocation, and termination of parental rights. The following guidelines address the intricacies of child custody recommending counseling.

When it comes to these meetings, it is critical to just be yourself—specifically, the best version of you. Remember to properly dress for the occasion and act respectfully, despite the overwhelming emotions surrounding your case. Lastly, be prepared when it comes to the questions you’ll be asked and always consider the best interest of your child.

1. What is child custody recommending counseling?

It is a form of negotiation between parties with the assistance of a professional counselor who must help them reach an agreement with custody and parenting issues. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement during the FCS session, the counselor must submit a written report to the court, detailing the recommendation for custody and visitation, as well as the reasons for them.

2. What is the main purpose of child custody recommending counseling?

The main purpose of this type of counseling is to (1) substantially reduce the hostility between the parties, (2) create an agreement which enables both parents to have frequent and continuing contact with the child and that assures the health, safety, and well-being of the child, and (3) obtain a resolution that addresses the issues of custody and rights to parenting time that is in the best interest of the child.

3. What does child custody recommending counseling include?

Interviews with the parents, interviews with the child, interview with other parties who may be involved, and interviews with other individuals who may possess information regarding the situation.

4. When does child custody recommending counseling happen?

The counseling happens prior to the scheduled court hearing.

5. Who leads the child custody recommending counseling?

Skilled Family Court Counselors who have obtained master’s degrees and specialized training in areas (e.g. conflict resolution, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, children’s developmental stages, parenting techniques, etc.) related to families and children are employed by the court.

6. How can I prepare for child custody recommending counseling?

It is important to put your strong feelings toward the other party aside and focus on what your child’s need to have a healthy relationship with both parents, which is what the court prefers. Have at least two different proposals ready that detail how your child can spend time with you and the other parent. When the other parent has ideas of his/her own, be sure to listen to them and discuss what might be the best solution for everyone.

7. What if an agreement cannot be reached during child custody recommending counseling?

If the parties cannot reach a full—or even partial—agreement, the Family Court Counselor will submit a written recommendation to the court regarding issues which the parties are not able to agree on. Keep in mind, the judge ultimately makes the final decision since the Family Court Counselor can only make recommendations.

8. Can I submit information to FCS prior to my child custody recommending counseling appointment?

Complete Family Court Services Data Sheet (SDSC FCS-002) before your child custody recommending counseling appointment. However, for all other information, please take a look at the Local Court Rules. While some counselors will allow you submit documents, some won’t.

9. Can I engage in “ex parte communication” to the Family Court Counselor before or after the FCS appointment?

“Ex parte communication” means any communication between an appointed court official and a party to a legal proceeding or any other person about the case, outside of the presence of the opposing party or the opposing party’s attorney. This type of communication is prohibited at any time before a judge has made a final decision in the case.

10. What if I miss my FCS appointment?

Unfortunately, another appointment cannot be scheduled due to the short period of time between the FCS appointment and the court hearing. If one or both parties are not able to attend counseling, the session will be canceled and the court will be notified. In the event you miss your FCS appointment, you must still appear at your scheduled court hearing, but be prepared with an explanation to the judge.

11. Do children attend child custody recommending counseling?

No. Although an interview needs to be conducted, that will be scheduled for a separate occasion.

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