One of the biggest issues regarding clients going through a Divorce or a Child Custody matter is the issue of which parent will have custody of the children. In a Sacramento Family Court case this matter will usually be handled by the office of Sacramento Family Court Services. This department is often referred to by Judges and Attorneys as "FCS".
The California Family Code requires that parents mediate their custody dispute before the matter goes before the Judge. The Sacramento Office of Family Court Services is located on the First Floor of the Sacramento Family Court House and is the office where parents are referred to mediation before their court date.
When a Request for Orders is filed by a parent requesting a court date for a custody hearing, a copy of the papers is sent to the FCS office and an appointment for a mediation appointment is than set. This appointment will generally be about two weeks before the date of the court hearing.
It is mandatory that both parents attend the Family Court Services appointment. It is also a requirement that children age five and older be brought to the mediation appointment. The mediator will be able to speak to the children regarding their wishes. A parent will have the option of meeting with the mediator alone if they are protected by a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. The parents will typically meet jointly with a mediator and attempt to work out an agreement regarding the parenting schedule of the children. The FCS mediators are very well trained and are often of great assistance to parents in working out an agreement.
If the parents are able to work out a complete agreement, it will be typed up by the mediator and sent to the court file before the hearing. The Judge can than adopt this agreement as a Custody Order.
If the parents are not able to come to an agreement, the mediator will write up a specific custody schedule as their recommendation to the Judge. The Family Court Services mediator will often make outside contacts regarding the children with people who can provide the mediator with more information. These contacts may include the children's school records, their counselors or even Child Protective Services.
The Court will decide whether to adopt the report in whole or part. If one parent does not agree with the recommendation, than they have the right to have the matter set for Trial.
This would be a hearing where the parents can present evidence and witnesses to the Court in an attempt to have the recommendation either adopted or rejected by the Court. The Mediator would usually offer testimony as to the basis for their recommendations as being in the best interest of the children.
No one looks forward to a court issue regarding child custody. It is often a stressful experience for all parties involved. However, most parents will agree that they have a positive experience with the process and staff at Sacramento Office of Family Court Services.