What is Child Custody Counseling?

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Parents who divorce need to have a plan for deciding how they will handle their parenting responsibilities.

  • This plan can be called a "parenting plan," a "time-share plan," or an "agreement" ("stipulation") regarding child custody and visitation.
  • To be legal, any plan must be in writing and signed by both parents and a judge.

When parents CANNOT AGREE on a parenting plan, the judge will send them to Family Court Services to see if they can reach an agreement with the help of a court counselor or mediator.

  • For Family Court Services Programs in California, click here. Opens new window
  • For Family Court Services in Contra Costa County, California, click here. Opens new window

If you have enough money, you and your spouse or parther may hire a private mediator.

What will a child custody recommending counselor or mediator do?

The counselor or mediator will help the parents to make a parenting plan that includes:

  • Legal custody: how the two parents will make decisions about the children. (like health care, education, and other important decisions)
  • Physical custody/visitation: when the child(ren) will be with each parent.
  • Any special arrangements necessary to protect the spouses or partners and their children.

If the parents can't agree on everything during the session, the judge may ask the child custody counselor or court-based mediator to make a recommendation.

What if one of the parents is worried about domestic violence?

  • The judge should be told about the violence or abuse (or any fear either one has that this may happen).
  • The counselor or mediator should be told as soon as possible. If one of the parents does not feel comfortable meeting with the abusive person, he or she can ask to meet with the counselor or mediator alone.
  • If there has been a history of domestic violence, or there is a restraining order in effect against the other parent, the protected person has a right to meet separately with the court's counselor or mediator. Ask the counselor or mediator about supervised visitation.
  • In an abusive situation, it may help to have a restraining order. For help getting a restraining order see the Domestic Violence Opens new window section on this website.

Can the parents bring someone to the counseling or mediation session with them?

  • If there is a restraining order, the protected person can bring a support person to the counseling or mediation session.
  • If there is not a restraining order, ask the counselor or mediator if a support person can come to the session.




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