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Parenting Plan - Mediation at Family Court Services

Perhaps the most important hearing in your case, no matter whether you were not married [paternity] or married [legal separation or divorce] for where your children live may be the mandatory mediation at Family Court Services, although it is not before a Judge and your lawyer will not be present. 

If you do not reach an agreement, the written recommendation will be given to you and the other parent and the Judge and will contain specifics for when each parent sees their children and also who makes decisions about education, welfare and health. Normally, there is only “one shot” at the mediation so it is crucial that you are prepared and ready.  Doppelt and Forney, APLC can assist in discussing with you the procedures for this mediation so you can do your best.

The law in San Diego and California is commonly called the “best interest test”.  This can be very difficult to quantify specifically and means different things to different people of course.  Involved are the factors of stability, bonding, frequent and continuing contact, and many other factors. California is a mandatory mediation state and San Diego is a mandatory mediation County. What this means to you is that, prior to a San Diego Superior Court Judge making a court order for your parenting plan, the parents must attend mediation unless it is an emergency.

An emergency, under Family Law, normally includes abduction, neglect, abuse or molest as well as other serious conduct which places the children in irreparable and immediate harm. If these factors are your case, then the procedure is to appear on an emergency basis [called an ex parte] and ask for emergency parenting plan orders or, if not granted, an order which shortens the time for the scheduling of the mediation and/or the court hearing for parenting plan orders.  Of course, it is very important for you to be on time and also to act professionally and dress accordingly to make the best impression.  It is also possible to ask for your children [depending on their ages] to speak with the mediator about their preference for a parenting plan.

Family Court Services Offices in San Diego County are staffed by Licensed Clinical Social Workers hired by the Court and are a San Diego County Agency who meet with parents and try and assist them to reach agreements.

San Diego, unlike some other counties in California such are Orange, is considered a “recommending county”. What this means to you is that, if you and the other parent are not able to reach an agreement in mediation, a written recommendation will be prepared. The mediator will give a copy to both parents and the Judge. Statistically, the Judge will follow the mediation recommendation the vast majority of the time.

If you reach an agreement at the mediation, the mediator will write down the agreement and present this to the Judge, you, and the other parent. Review this most carefully to insure this is your agreement and no mistakes made as these sometimes do occur.

If you do not reach an agreement, then you will need to, again, most carefully review the recommendation and write down what you (1) agree to and (2) what you do not agree to.  It is best to go through each number and subsection for this purpose. It can be very helpful to the Judge and to document your position to prepare a declaration in response to the FCS mediation recommendation and file with the Court prior to the hearing. 

If you disagree with the recommendation of the mediator, you also have the option of asking for an evidentiary hearing where you can testify and present witnesses and ask the Judge not to follow the recommendation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers

Call 800-769-4748 to schedule a confidential and free in-person or virtual consultation up to 30 minutes in the law office of Doppelt and Forney, APLC. Feel free to bring the recommendation with your requests for any modifications to the meeting and your issues can be discussed.  Whether your case is in downtown district, North County, East County or South Bay, the attorneys can assist with representing you for your pending case

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