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Limited Parking at Juvenile Justice Center

The County of Kern is installing solar panels in the parking lot of Public Health. This will impact parking at the Juvenile Justice Center. 

Family Court Mediation

Family Court Services provides the residents of Kern County with an array of assistance for individuals involved in Family Court and Probate Court. The department delivers the following court ordered services: confidential child custody mediations, juvenile court dependency mediations, family court investigations (termination of parental rights and stepparent adoption investigations), child custody evaluations, and probate court investigations (conservatorship and relative guardianship investigations).

Mediation Appointments

If you have a mediation appointment, call the office at (661) 610-6700 or send an email on the day and time of your appointment to let us know you are available for mediation. Provide us with your name, telephone number and case number. Please read and complete the following forms. Once they are completed, you may email them along with the confirmation of your appointment. This will help expedite your mediation appointment.

Child Custody Mediation

Family Court mediation is a confidential session which involves the discussion between the parents and a neutral mental health professional for the development of an effective co-parenting plan for their children. Mediation gives parents the opportunity to reach an agreement for child custody and visitation that is in the best interest of their children. Mediation is most effective when the parents complete the Children First Online Program. This program allows parents to acknowledge the importance of focusing on sharing their parental responsibilities in a way that is most beneficial for their children. It is required that both parents complete this program prior to attending their mediation session. Failure to complete the program may delay the mediation process. Children First Online Program

Orientation to Family Law Mediation

The program is available from the California Court website. 

The court believes the information provided in this program will help you make better decisions regarding your children and will help you understand the family law process.

Parent Manual

Parent Manual - Spanish

Family Law Mediation Videos

Resource Directory - English

Resource Directory - Spanish

Domestic Violence

If your case involves domestic violence or active restraining orders, it is important for you to read and understand this information prior to your court hearing.

General Guidelines for Your Parenting Plan

Unless there are restraining orders that prevent parents from communicating, parents should discuss how they are working to reduce the risk of the children being exposed to the COVID-19 virus. In general, a parent cannot deny the other parent their parenting time based on a subjective belief that the other parent is not protecting the children well enough.

COVID-19 is not a reason to deny parenting time. Parents are considered fit to care for their children and make the day-to-day parenting decisions, unless a court has decided differently. Day-to-day care includes following orders and recommendations by the State of California and Kern County Public Health, such as social distancing and frequent hand-washing.

While schools are closed, parenting time should continue as if the children are attending school in their regular school district. Parents should not treat the school closure as the child’s spring or summer break. It is also not treated as a “weekend” under the parenting plan.

During the exchange of children, parties should follow public health directives for limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This may mean choosing a different location with fewer people or fewer risks of contamination from objects or surfaces. (Example: moving the exchange from inside a store or restaurant to the parking lot)

If the parenting time is supposed to take place in a public place that is now closed, such as a park, the parents should try to agree to a different and safe location. If that is not possible, the parenting time should instead take place by video or telephone.

If a parent is ordered to have supervised visitation with a child, and the supervisor is unavailable due to COVID- 19 related issues, the parents should work together to make sure that a safe visit can happen. For example, the parents could agree to having a different supervisor for the visits, or allow the visit to take place by video or telephone.

If a parent cannot spend time with a child under the existing parenting plan due to COVID-19 related issues, parents should work together to schedule makeup parenting time in a way that ensures the children's safety and wellbeing.

If you need to change the existing parenting plan because you and the other parent cannot agree on needed changes, the Family Court offers hearings and child custody mediation by telephone or video. If you have evidence that there is an immediate threat to a child’s health or safety, you may ask the court for emergency orders.

Our first responders (Sheriff, police, fire, EMTs) are providing much needed support for issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and must be available for true emergencies. So please do not call first responders regarding enforcement of child custody orders unless an immediate and significant safety issue is present.

Mediation FAQs

Mediation is mandatory. When there is a child custody dispute, the parents must attend mediation. The Family Code requires that parents attempt to resolve any issues through mediation prior to any court hearing.

Mediation in Kern County is confidential. When the parents and the mediator discuss any child custody concerns or the development of a co-parenting plan, mediators do not report to anyone including the court or judges except under certain circumstances. Mediators do inform the court if:

  • A parent does not appear for mediation
  • Parents cannot reach an agreement
  • Recommend that Minors Counsel be appointed
  • Recommend a Child Custody Investigation

The request to appoint Minors Counsel or a child custody investigation are only recommendations. Judges may or may not grant these requests made by the mediator.

Mediators are mental health professionals, which means they are mandated to report any suspected child abuse to the Department of Human Services Child Protective Services. Mediators are also required to report if there is a danger to self or others.

After mediation sessions are complete, mediators do not make any other recommendations to the court regarding custody and visitation other than the ones previously mentioned.

  • Purpose of Mediation:

    The purpose of mediation is to offer a neutral place for parents to plan their children’s care and shared parental responsibilities. The parents are given the opportunity to resolve any disputes pertaining to Legal and Physical Custody before the court makes any order. Mediation sessions may last minutes or hours.

  • Developing a Child Custody Plan:

    The mediator will assist the parents in the development of a written co-parenting plan, which includes specific information on how the parents will make decisions about time share, exchanges of the child, communication between the parents about the child, health, education, extracurricular activities, etc. These co-parenting plans are also known as agreements. An agreement is a detailed description of how the children will spend their time with each parent and how the parents will make important decisions about the children’s health, safety, and welfare.The mediator will draft an agreement that is acceptable to both parents.Mediators can decline to draft an agreement when they believe it is not in the best interest of the children. Once an agreement between the parents is established, the agreement is sent to the judicial officer to become a court order.

  • Interviews with Children:

    Children who are 8 years of age or older are asked to be present during mediation so the mediator may interview them, separately from the parents. Mediators are trained to interview children in order to assist parents in developing parenting plans. Children are never asked to make a decision with whom they want to live. Children are not able to make these choices, but they can discuss their concerns with the mediators. The communication between the children and the mediator is confidential. The mediator will not share with the parents any information discussed with the children unless the children give permission to disclose their concerns with the parents.

  • Violence Between Parents:

    The law allows for separate mediation when there are allegations of domestic violence or a restraining order in place. Alleged victims are allowed to have a support person with them during mediation. At the time of the mediation, the alleged victim will complete a questionnaire regarding their request for separate mediation. Mediators may initiate separate sessions between the parents, if there is an appearance of intimidation whether there are allegations of domestic violence or not.

  • If No Agreement is Reached:

    Although the law requires that parents participate in the mediation process, there is no requirement that they reach an agreement. The mediator will notify the court that the parents participated in mediation but they were not able to establish an agreement. The mediator will not make any recommendations to the court regarding custody and visitation when the parents do not reach an agreement. The judicial officer will meet with the parents for a court hearing.

Family Court Services mediators are court employees. Mediators are required to have a Master’s Degree in a behavioral health field: Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Counseling, or Psychology with at least two years paid post-masters experience. Many mediators hold a license and others are associates in clinical social work or marriage, family, and child counseling, professional counseling, or psychology. Several of the mediators speak Spanish. Mediators are required to have specialized training in order to mediate and investigate matters related to child custody. They do not provide any legal advice, and they remain neutral throughout the mediation session.Information about standards for mediators can be located at California Rules of Court.

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