Family Court Services
Family Court Services (FCS) is staffed by mental health practitioners who work with families with children when there are disputes. The FCS staff provides mediation services in both Family Law cases that involve either child custody and/or timeshare plans (visitations schedules) and in Juvenile Dependency cases. The main function of FCS is to provide mediation services—although it also provides other services to the Court and families.
Primary Services of Family Court Services
- Free confidential mediations for custody and visitation disputes
- Free Orientation programs that provide education about the following topics (Parents of the same child, or children, will be in separate orientations):
- What is mediation and how does it work;
- What to expect in Court;
- The developmental needs of children;
- The impact of separation, conflict and violence on children;
- How to work with your child's other parent to help your child; and
- Provide the Court with specific information to assist it in making appropriate orders for children, as the Court may order. This is known as a Tier 2 report.
- Facilitate visitation services at the Rally Program by providing Rally with necessary orders and information. More information about Rally Family Visitation:
- In custody cases, provide parties with the names of possible custody evaluators, as the Court may order.
- Minimum Standards for Custody Evaluators
- Family Court Services does not deal with any financial or property issues
Services for Non-English Speakers
- Bilingual mediators can provide mediation services in Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi, as staff resources allow. Orientations are offered in English and Spanish.
- Parties who appear on the Domestic Violence calendar or who have a current restraining order may request an interpreter free of charge for their mediation or court date. A request should be made as soon as possible, in advance of that date, in Room 402.
- Aside from the exceptions above, parties who do not speak English fluently should bring their own interpreter to mediation and to Court. Minor children are NOT allowed to interpret.
Attorney Participation in Mediation
Attorneys are invited to participate in mediation. The mediator retains discretion as to how to incorporate counsel into the session. Attorneys who decide not to participate in the mediation session are considered to have waived the ex parte communication rules governing mediator attorney communications.
Orders and Modifications for Rally Visitation Services
- If parties expect court involvement in Rally visitation services, Family Court Services must be involved in the procedures in setting up these services.
- Parties should be aware that Rally services will not proceed if the necessary paperwork is not fully and appropriately completed.
- If a mediator is not in Court when Rally orders are made, parties should request that one be contacted to assist with the paperwork.
- All stipulations and orders must address the following:
- The number of times a week for visits or exchanges;
- The reason(s) for Rally Request;
- The number of hours per visit (no more than two hours per week for supervised visits);
- The person(s) responsible for paying the Rally fees;
- The appropriate fee for service (Court to determine fee rate based on the income of the parties);
- Court review date for all cases with supervised visits;
- Name(s) & dates of birth of child(ren) involved in Rally services; and
- Special language or other needs.
- Parties can request a particular schedule of Rally. However, the Court cannot order a specific schedule for Rally services. The exact schedule will be worked out between Rally staff and the parties when they each go in for their intake interview at Rally.
- Counsel who are putting together a stipulated order that includes a referral for Rally services (or for the termination of services) are encouraged to contact the parties' mediator or the manager, if there was no prior mediator, to request assistance in putting together a complete Rally order and associated papers.
- Counsel are urged to drop off a courtesy copy of any stipulated order that includes a referral to Rally (or for the termination of services), once it has been signed by the Court for the parties' mediator, or for the manager if there is no assigned mediator.
Stipulations and Orders for Custody Evaluations
- All orders for custody evaluations must be in the form required by San Francisco Local Rules.