Family Court Services (FCS)
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Child Custody Recommending Counseling (Formerly Mediation)

When parents have a custody and parenting time (visitation) dispute, the court will refer them to Family Court Services (FCS) for child custody recommending counseling. FCS recommending counseling is a part of the court, is mandatory when the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, and the services are free.

When you have your appointment with FCS, both parents meet with an FCS professional called a "Child Custody Recommending Counselor." The Child Custody Recommending Counselor will try to help the parents reach an agreement concerning custody and visitation. They are mental health professionals and social workers trained and experienced in working with children, families, and divorce and custody issues, including domestic violence.

In cases of domestic violence, you can ask to meet separately with the Child Custody Recommending Counselor, to have a support person with you, or both.

If the parents reach an agreement, the Family Law Facilitator can help them prepare the agreement and have the judge sign it so it becomes a court order.

If the parents do not reach an agreement, child custody recommending counseling is still confidential, but the Child Custody Recommending Counselor must write a report and make recommendations to the judge. Both parents, and their lawyers, will get copies but the report stays in the confidential part of the court file. If the parents reach an agreement, the Counselor does not write a recommendation for the judge.

If you want private mediation to try to work out an agreement, you can hire your own mediator or contact the Family Law ADR Program to find a low cost mediator or arbitrator to help you.

Watch a video about Family Court Mediation and Child Custody Recommending.

To learn more about the process of Child Custody Recommending Counseling, read the Child Custody Information Sheet-Recommending Counseling (FL-313-INFO).

Language icon It is also available in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

And visit the self-help Child Custody and Parenting Time page to learn about the court process, legal terms, and get resources to help you develop your parenting plan that is in the best interest of your children.

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Parent Orientation Class

Before your first child custody recommending counseling appointment you MUST complete a Parent Orientation Class.

Parent Orientation will help you:

  • Know what to expect at your appointment with the Child Custody Recommending Counselor (CCRC), and
  • Prepare you to think about a parenting plan that will be best for your children.

Also read the Parent Handbook to get important information about logistics, resources, and helping your children through your separation.

THE PARENT ORIENTATION IS COMPLETED ONLINE. YOU MAY COMPLETE IT AT THE TIME MOST CONVENIENT TO YOU, AS LONG AS IT IS DONE BEFORE YOUR APPOINTMENT:

If you need to access the workshop at a Court or community location, please refer to Internet Access for the Online Parenting Orientation, or call our office to have a list of options sent to you.

If a disability or language barrier prevents you from completing the parent orientation online, please contact Family Court Services (FCS) at 650-261-5080 for information on how it can be completed in person.

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Additional FCS Services

Family Court Services also provides the following services:

  • Recommending Counseling of Guardianship cases for visitation requests- upon referral by the Court
  • Recommending counseling for the following petitions filed with the Juvenile Court:
    • Stepparent Adoptions
    • Domestic Partner Adoptions
    • Freedom from Custody and Control
  • Recommending counseling for Requests of Minors to Marry
  • Emancipation Petitions

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Parent Education Workshops

The court strongly recommends that parents with child custody and visitation issues participate in a parent education class before the court date.

This is not a mandatory class, like the Parent Orientation Class, but it can help parents better understand what their children need and how to make sure they keep their children's best interest in mind at all times.

Kid's Turn has workshops for children and their parents to help families cope with separation. The classes are free for children, and on a sliding-scale for parents. They offer workshops in the Peninsula and South Bay, as well as other parts of the Bay Area.

Another great resource is Families Change - A Guide to Separation and Divorce. It is an online guide with 3 versions-one for parents, one for children, and one for teens and pre-teens.
Families Change Banner

And see also the Parenting After Separation course.

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Forms
Contact Us

400 County Center, 6th Floor,
Redwood City, CA 94063 [Directions]

Phone Number and Phone Hours:
(650) 261-5080
Monday - Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
(Closed from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.)

Office Hours: Monday - Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 (Closed from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.) or by appointment (call for an appointment).

For child support matters, please contact the San Mateo County Department of Child Support Services at 1 (866) 901-3212.

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