Mediation

The mission of the Family Court Services Department is to assist the families of Kern County with the development of the best possible solution for difficult family transitions in a professional and ethical manner.

 

Family Court Services

 

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).

 

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

Is Mediation Mandatory?

 

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.

 

Is Mediation Confidential?

 

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.

 

What Happens In Mediation?

 

  • 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.

 

Who Are The Mediators?

 

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 atCalifornia Rules of Court.

 

What Is The Schedule And Location Of Family Court Services?

 

Metro Bakersfield:Superior Court, County of KernFamily Court Services1215 Truxtun Avenue, 3rd FloorBakersfield, California 93301661-868-4530Hours of Operation:Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm(On Fridays the lobby closes at 12:00 pm)

 

 

 

REGIONAL MEDIATION SCHEDULE

Mojave Superior CourtEvery Monday1773 State Highway 58 BusinessMojave, California 93501

Delano Superior CourtEvery Tuesday1122 Jefferson StreetDelano, California 93215

Ridgecrest Superior CourtEvery Wednesday132 East Coso AvenueRidgecrest, California 93555

Shafter Superior CourtEvery Thursday325 Central Valley HighwayShafter, California 93263