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Divorce & Paternity & Legal Separation

Tips & Preparation Strategies for Family Court Services Mediation for Custody and Visitation in San Diego: 2019

There is no difference in visitation and custody orders whether the parents are married or unmarried for a parenting plan with paternity cases needing a judgment of parentage first. Unfortunately, this can be the most contentious part of any legal separation, paternity or divorce. Most parents agree on their parenting plan. Some agree with no assistance or hearings and decide where it is best for the children to live. Some parents cannot agree and then a San Diego Superior Court Judge in Family Law Court must make an order. Below is a description of the process. Doppelt and Forney, APLC have represented hundreds of clients in this most complex process in all the courts in San Diego County.

Except in cases of legal emergency, including child abuse, neglect or molest, the parents must attend mediation [which is mandatory] with Family Court Services before a hearing for the Judge to make orders where the child will live. Family Court Services is a San Diego County organization and staffed full time. They have offices in all of the court houses where divorce and paternity and legal separation cases are heard. The procedure is initiated when one parent files a motion which is called a Request for Order. When this is filed for request for custody and/or visitation, mediation date and court hearing date will be set. The mediation date will be first. Under the current local rules, the parties can only attend FCS one time per year unless Court order to the contrary. It can be from 30-60 days to have the mediation and from 60-120 days to have a hearing scheduled. Times vary depending on the court houses and mediation schedules.

At the mediation, you will need to check in at the front desk. It is very important to be on time. If you miss the mediation appointment, the Judge may sanction you. San Diego is a recommending county. To you, this means that {if you and the other parent do not reach an agreement}, there will be a written recommendation sent to both parents and the Judge. The Judges will follow the mediator recommendation the vast majority of the time so your goal is to obtain the recommendation for the parenting plan you would like. The mediator is only concerned about the best interests of the child or children. These include factors such as bonding, frequent and continuing contact and stability. Also, the welfare, safety and health of the children are considered in the best interests. The gender of a parent is expressly prohibited from being a factor in the best interests by law.

Many parents, both in court and in mediation, become nervous and this is normal and understandable. One tip is to prepare an outline of why you think your proposed plan is in the best interests and also to have a parenting schedule you are specifically asking for. This can be more complex than first appears. For example, most would agree that Mother’s Day is with mother and Father’s Day is with Father. Many parenting plans have pick up and drop off at school to minimize contact between the parents and reduce tension and conflict. What happens if a non school day? What happens for 3 day weekends? How will vacations be handled? Will both sides agree there children can be taken out of the state and/or out of the country for vacations? What parenting schedule is in the best interests of the children is, of course, a subjective one.

If no agreement, and a written recommendation, then you will need to appear before a Judge to make an order. Before the hearing, if you would like, you can submit evidence which supports your legal position. All cases are individual and require individual legal analysis and different strategies. At the hearing for the parenting plan will be orders for both legal and physical custody. The vast majority of parents in San Diego County have joint legal custody. This means they make joint decisions regarding health, education and welfare. Physical custody refers to where the children will live and how the parents will see their children. This can also be joint physical custody or one parent may have more parenting time than the other. This becomes more complicated when parents do not live in the same county, state or country.

The law office of Doppelt and Forney, APLC services all of the family law court houses in San Diego County. These include El Cajon, Chula Vista, Vista and Downtown. Their attorneys have made family law court appearances in all of these court houses. You may call 800-769-4748 to schedule an appointment in their office for up to 30 minutes with no charge for an initial consultation. This is a very good way to obtain both realistic expectations and accurate information about your case.

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