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Browsing in Family > Family Court Services

Family Court Services


Request for Qualifications for Family Court Services Provider's Referral List
Ongoing RFQ #10-2015-FCS


  Family Court Services Location
1130 O Street
First Floor
Fresno, CA 93721-2220

Telephone: (559) 457-2100, option #4
Voicemail: (559) 457-1677

Office Hours:
Monday - Thursday: 8 AM Ė 3 PM
Friday: 8 AM-12PM Noon

For a map to the Family Court Services location, click here.


Orientation?

FCS Resource Library

What’s the purpose of Family Court Services?

Orientation

Pursuant to California Rule of Court 5.210(e)(2), FCS provides orientation information regarding the Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation process. Unless excused by the Court, both parties are required to complete an Family Court Services (FCS) Orientation program prior to their scheduled FCS appointment. Failing to successfully complete Orientation may result in adverse consequences from the Court. The orientation prepares parties for their Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation by giving an overview of the process. This includes educational information regarding children’s developmental needs and co-parenting skills.

The FCS Orientation is provided in both English and Spanish.

There are currently two (2) ways to complete Court ordered FCS Orientation:

  1. You can view the complete FCS audio and visual slide show Orientation Online here in:

    The following presentation should be viewed in Microsoft Internet Explorer with Adobe Flash Player installed and is NOT accessible on a mobile phone at this time.

    Slides cannot be forwarded past while watching the presentation and a simple one question slide will show periodically which is required to continue. If the quiz is answered incorrectly you will be taken back to the slide that directly corresponds to the question missed and will continue from that point. When you return to the quiz slide again you do not have to answer the question again, but just select the "Next" button to continue with the orientation.

    Once the orientation is complete please do not close your browser until your "Orientation Confirmation" page pops up and you enter your email, name, and case number before clicking the "Send Your Message" button.

    English or Spanish

  2. You can attend a public presentation of the FCS audio and visual slide show Orientation at the Sisk Courthouse Jury Assembly room every Friday at 1:30 p.m. in English or 2:30 p.m. in Spanish.

*If the Court orders the parties to participate in Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation on more than one occasion, the Court may again order the parties to complete the FCS orientation in the following circumstances:

  1. If the parties have failed to complete the orientation as previously ordered by the Court, or
  2. If it has been more than 6 months since the parties last completed the orientation.

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Family Court Services Resource Library

FCS Forms

 

Provider Information

Ongoing RFQ 10-2015-FCS - RE: Family Court Services Provider's Referral List

 

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What's the purpose of Family Court Services?

The Family Court Services (FCS) Department shall serve the Families of our Community and enhance public trust and confidence in the Family Court process. We shall, by the impartial and timely resolution of issues, comply with court directives and ensure that the best interests of the children are served.

Family Code §3170, requires that if it appears that custody, visitation or both are contested, the court shall set the contested issues for Mediation before making custody orders.  FCS is responsible for providing these Mediation/CCRC services as ordered by the Court.

Per Family Code §3161, the purpose of a Mediation or Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC) session is to:

  • reduce acrimony which may exist between the parties
  • develop an agreement assuring the child close and continuing contact with both parents that is in the best interest of the child
  • effect a settlement of the issue of visitation rights of all parties that is in the best interest of the child.

Per Family Code §3180 (b), the mediator or CCRC counselor shall use his or her best efforts to effect a settlement of the custody or visitation dispute that is in the best interest of the child.

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How do I schedule/reschedule my FCS appointment?
Scheduling - In Fresno, when on parent schedules a custody hearing, that first hearing is called a readiness hearing.  The purpose of the readiness hearing is to be sure that the case is ready to be scheduled for Mediation with FCS.  If the papers are in order and are sufficient, and both parents are present at the hearing, the parents are usually given a Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation appointment with FCS.

You will write your FCS appointment date and time on the documents provided to you in Court and the FCS appointment date and time will be printed on your minute order.  If you are not sure about the date and time for your FCS appointment, please contact FCS, have your case number available, and we will provide you with the date and time for any upcoming FCS appointments.

Rescheduling - Because the appointments with FCS are set by the Court, FCS is unable to reschedule these appointments.

Missed Appointments – FCS allows a 15 minute grace period for each FCS appointment.  After 15 minutes, if the parties are not at FCS and ready to proceed, the appointment will be cancelled and the appointment slot will be given to another case.  If you were unable to attend your scheduled FCS appointment simply proceed to your court hearing and the Judicial Officer will decide what should happen next.

For a Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation appointment, if the other parent does not attend the appointment you will be dismissed after the 15 minute grace period.  The mediator will inform the court that you attended the appointment as scheduled but they will NOT meet with you.  You will simply be dismissed and instructed to attend your upcoming court hearing.

For a Tier 2 or CCRC appointment, if the other parent does not attend the appointment the counselor may meet with you separately and/or interview the children.  Whether or not you are interviewed will be determined by the directions provided by the Judicial Officer.

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Do we have to go to my FCS appointment?
Yes – Mediation is required by California Law.  Before a Judicial Officer makes a custody order (except in emergencies), the parents must be given a chance to reach an agreement by working with an experienced professional at FCS.  Parents have an obligation to meaningfully participate in Mediation.  A failure to meaningfully participate in Mediation my result in that parent not being heard on issues of custody/visitation before the court.  Any attorney who knowingly frustrates implementation of Mediation may be reported to the State Bar for disciplinary proceedings. (Bach vs. State Bar (1987) 43 Cal.3rd 848, 852-853.)

Failure to participate in Tier 2 or CCRC appointments may result in the FCS counselor making a recommendation without your input.  It is therefore in your child’s best interest that you participate in any and all FCS appointments.

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What happens in a Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation?
Family Code §3170, requires that if it appears that custody, visitation or both are contested, the court shall set the contested issues for Mediation before making custody orders.  Therefore, unless custody/visitation has been resolved at the readiness hearing, parents will be given a date to participate in Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation.

In a Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation session the mediator strives to resolve disagreements between the parties regarding the care and well-being of the children.  Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation provides parties an opportunity to resolve their difference with the assistance of a court employee who is an expert in child development, resolving disagreements/conflict, and court custody matters.  If the parties are able to reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare a custody/visitation plan.  That plan will be submitted to the court for review and signature. 

Children shall NOT participate in Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation.

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What happens in a Tier 2 or Tier 3 appointment?
If the Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation has not resulted in a full agreement, the Judicial Officer has discretion to refer the parties for further services with FCS, including but not limited to a Tier 2 and/or Tier 3 session.  These additional services shall be scheduled as directed by the Family Law Judicial Officer in the exercise of his/her discretion according to the availability of resources and needs of each case.

Tier 2 - The purpose of Tier II sessions is to provide the Court with additional information regarding specific areas deemed significant by the Judicial Officer.  A Tier II summary report shall be provided to the Court and parties which may include, but not be limited to, a description of collateral contacts with law enforcement or Child Protective Services, interviews with the child(ren), etc.  The counselor will only interview and/or provide additional information regarding the specific areas or persons identified by the Judicial Officer.  The Tier II summary report will not include any recommendations from the counselor.

The Court may order for the child(ren) to participate in the Tier 2 session.  If ordered by the Court, the counselor will conduct a private interview with each child 5 years of age or older.  If the Court has ordered that the child(ren) be interviewed as part of the Tier 2 session, please make sure to bring your child(ren) to the Tier 2 appointment at FCS.  (Please see the Sections Will the children be included in this process? and Is childcare available at court? below for additional information).

Tier 3 – CCRC – The purpose of the Tier 3 – CCRC is to provide the Court with a report and recommendation from the counselor.  Tier 3 - CCRC session may include, but is not limited to, interviews with the parents, children, other parties who may be legally joined to the case, and other individuals and organizations who may have information about the situation.  The sessions are not confidential and the counselor will make a recommendation to the Court on all items still in dispute.  The counselor’s recommended plan regarding custody and visitation shall be made available to the parties, at the FCS office, two (2) court days before the court hearing.  If the recommendation is not available before the hearing, it shall be available in court at the time of the hearing.  The counselor’s report shall not be provided to the parties in advance, but will only be made available for the parties in court at the time of the hearing. 

The counselor has the discretion to interview all children ages 5 and older associated with the case.  To ensure that the children are available to participate in a private interview with the counselor, please make sure to bring all children ages 5 and older to the Tier 3 – CCRC appointment at FCS.  (Please see the Sections Will the children be included in this process? and Is childcare available at court? below for additional information).

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What happens in an At-Court CCRC Session?
An At-Court CCRC Session is scheduled by a Judicial Officer when a Judicial Officer determines that exigent circumstances exist such that an immediate CCRC Session must be scheduled.  An At-Court CCRC session may include, but is not limited to, interviews with the parents, children, other parties who may be legally joined to the case, and other individuals and organizations who may have information about the situation.  Children who are five years of age or older must be brought to court for the At-Court CCRC Session.  The sessions are not confidential and the counselor will make a recommendation to the Court on all items still in dispute.  When possible, the recommending counselor will provide a report and recommendation on the day of the At-Court CCRC Session; however, the counselor shall be provided adequate time to interview the parties and child(ren), make collateral contacts, and prepare the report and recommendation.  There is no charge for At-Court CCRC Sessions, as these sessions are mandatory.

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Is the Mediation/CCRC appointment confidential?
Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation is confidential and therefore all communication must be kept confidential between the mediator, you, and the other party to the case.  The mediator shall only report, but not comment on, the parties’ agreement or inability to reach an agreement to the parties and the Court.

However, the mediator will disclose information about your case if:

  • The mediator suspects that a child has been abused or neglected and a report will be made to Child Protective Services or a law enforcement agency
  • The mediator thinks that one of the people involved in the case may hurt himself or herself or someone else.  The mediator may contact a law enforcement agency and warn a threatened person. 

Due to the confidential nature of the Tier 1- Confidential Mediation session, any mediator who provided Tier 1 - Confidential Mediation to the parents shall not be permitted to serve as a Tier II or CCRC counselor unless deemed operationally necessary by the FCS Manager.

Tier 2 and CCRC (At-Court or Tier 3) sessions are not confidential.  The counselor will submit a report and possible a recommendation to the court regarding the information obtained during the Tier 2 or CCRC session.  In addition, the counselor shall report suspected child abuse, elder abuse, and/or if someone is a danger to themselves or others.

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How do I prepare for my FCS Appointment?

  1. Attend Orientation – Pursuant to California Rule of Court 5.210(e)(2), FCS provides orientation information regarding the Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation process.  Unless excused by the Court, both parties are required to complete an FCS Orientation program prior to their scheduled FCS appointment.  Failing to successfully complete Orientation may result in adverse consequences from the Court.  The orientation prepares parties for their Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation by giving an overview of the process.  This includes educational information regarding children’s developmental needs and co-parenting skills.
  2. The FCS Orientation is provided in both English and Spanish.

    There are currently two (2) ways to complete Court ordered FCS Orientation:

    1. You can view the complete FCS audio and visual slide show Orientation Online here in:
      English or Spanish
      1. please note that the Online Orientation is NOT accessible on a mobile phone at this time
    2. You can attend a public presentation of the FCS audio and visual slide show Orientation at the Sisk Courthouse Jury Assembly room every Friday at 1:30 p.m. in English or 2:30 p.m. in Spanish.

    *If the Court orders the parties to participate in Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation on more than one occasion, the Court may again order the parties to complete the FCS orientation in the following circumstances:

    1. If the parties have failed to complete the orientation as previously ordered by the Court, or
    2. If it has been more than 6 months since the parties last completed the orientation.

  3. Complete the FCS Intake Form – Each party will be asked to complete and submit a FCS Intake Form prior to the scheduled FCS appointment. The parties will need to complete an updated FCS Intake Form at each FCS appointment, including Tier 2 and Tier 3 sessions. The information on the FCS Intake Form will provide important information to the mediator/counselor about you, your children and your wishes regarding a child custody and child visitation plan. The completed FCS Intake Form shall be submitted to the FCS clerk when you check in for your FCS appointment. For the FCS Intake Form, click here.

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What will be included in my Custody/Visitation Order?
Custody/Visitation Order Examples – Please click on the links below to review additional information that may be helpful as you prepare for your Mediation/CCRC appointment and begin to develop a plan that will serve the best interest of your child(ren)

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What if there has been a history of violence between the parents?
Separate Mediation/CCRC Sessions - Although most parents request to participate in a joint Mediation session because this will allow them the opportunity to hear and immediately respond to the concerns presented by the other parent, pursuant to Family Code §3183(b) and CA Rule of Court 5.215(d)(6), in cases where there has been a history of domestic violence between the parents or where a protective order is in effect, at the request of the parent alleging domestic violence in a written declaration under penalty of perjury, the mediator/CCRC shall meet with the parents separately and at separate times.

Please note that for Separate Mediation/CCRC sessions

  • The mediator/CCRC will only meet with each parent once.
  • Separate Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation – the mediator will remain focused on creating a parental agreement.  The mediator will not write a report or recommendation to the Court if the parents are unable to reach an agreement during their separate sessions.

If you feel that separate sessions are appropriate due to a history of domestic violence, please submit the Request for Separate Sessions form IMMEDIATELY.  For the Request for Separate Sessions form, Information Sheet; click here and Request Form; click here.

Support Person for your Mediation/CCRC Session – Per Family Code §6303, if a court has issued a protective order, a support person shall be permitted to accompany a party protected by the order during any Mediation/CCRC orientation or Mediation/CCRC session, including separate Mediation/CCRC sessions.  However, Family Code §6306 also states that the mediator/CCRC may exclude a support person from the session for any of the following reasons:

  • If the support person participates in the Mediation/CCRC session
  • If the support person acts as an advocate
  • If the presence of a particular support person is disruptive or disrupts the process of the Mediation/CCRC session

Please note that the Mediation/CCRC sessions are confidential and the support person is bound by the confidentiality of the session. 

If you are requesting that a Support Person be allowed to participate in your Mediation/CCRC session, please submit the Support Person Participation Form when you check in for your FCS appointment.  For the Support Person Participation Form, click here.

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What if English is not my primary language?
Interpreters – The Court is unable to provide interpreters for your Mediation/CCRC session.  All Mediation/CCRC appointments will be conducted in English or Spanish only.  Although FCS will do their best to assign parents who speak Spanish as their primary language to one of your Spanish speaking mediators/counselors these Spanish speaking mediators/counselors are not always available. Therefore, all parties that do not speak English as their primary language are ordered by the Court to bring a neutral adult to interpreter during the FCS appointment.  The parties must only bring interpreters that are a neutral adult that is not in any way related to any of the parties on the case.

Please note that the Mediation/CCRC sessions are confidential and the interpreter is bound by the confidentiality of the session. 

If you will be utilizing an interpreter during your Mediation/CCRC session, please submit the Interpreter Participation Form when you check in for your FCS appointment.  For the Interpreter Participation Form, click here.

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Do you have any additional resources to help my family through this transition?
Resolving custody and visitation disputes can be difficult.  FCS provides the following as additional resources that may be helpful for you and your family throughout this process. Please note that FCS is not directly responsible for the content of any of the programs/services listed below.  For any additional information, please contact the provider directly.

Families Change
This is an online guide (in English and Spanish) for families going through separation and divorce. With three versions – one for parents, one for children, and another for teens and pre-teens.  The parent version also includes a FREE Online Co-Parenting Program – Parenting After Separation. 
Families Change Banner

Judicial Council Orientation to Family Court Mediation and Child Custody Recommending
Click Here, Length: 30 minutes, 40 seconds.
This video provides a general, non-county specific, overview of the mediation and child custody recommending counseling court process, including heartfelt comments from children that have personally struggled through their parents’ divorce and separation.

Our Family Wizard website
The Our Family Wizard website reduces divorce conflict between parents by providing a central, secure location to document and share important information about their family. Parents can schedule parenting time, share vital information and manage expenses like un-reimbursed medical all through Our Family Wizard.

www.ourfamilywizard.com

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Will the children be included in this process?
The Court will do their best to make decisions that serve the best interest of the children, this includes, but is not limited to, trying to limit the child’s exposure to stressful court proceedings. Thus, the Court must carefully consider any request to take testimony directly from a child or to have the child interviewed by the FCS staff.  While we want to make sure that children have a voice during this process, we must also be careful not to make children feel burdened with having to pick between their parents during this already stressful time.

Children do NOT participate in the Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation appointment.  Please do not bring the children to FCS for your Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation appointment.  Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation is now just for the parents so the mediator can focus on helping the parents reach an agreement.  Because the children will not be interviewed, the Court is hopeful that the children’s wishes will be considered by you and the other parent.  You are the people who know them best, and you are the best people to determine what your children’s living arrangements should be.   As you work with the mediator, the mediator will help you understand the choices available to parents, the sorts of arrangements that often work well for children your children’s ages, what children need as their parents are separating, and how parents can best meet these needs.  The mediator will help you and the other parent address your parenting concerns and focus only on what your children need to be happy and strong.

Please bring the child(ren), ages 5 and older, to FCS for any Tier 2 or CCRC (Tier 3 or At-Court) appointment.  Children, typically only those ages 5 and older, may be interviewed as part of a Tier 2 or CCRC session.  The Court may direct FCS regarding whether or not the mediator/CCRC is to interview the child(ren) as part of a Tier 2 or CCRC.

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Is childcare available at Court?
Please note that both parents will typically be interviewed by the mediator/CCRC at the same time.  This means that neither parent will be available to wait with the child(ren) in the FCS lobby.  You will need to bring a NEUTRAL adult to supervise the child(ren) in the FCS lobby while you are meeting with the mediator/CCRC or you will need to bring Photo ID to check the child(ren) in the Sisk Courthouse Childcare Center (located on the 1st floor, next door to the FCS office).

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How do I submit documents to FCS?
FCS is not obligated to retain any documents provided to FCS by the parties or other collateral sources.  Although the mediator/CCRC has the discretion to temporarily retain supplemental documents, all supporting document will be destroyed, in a confidential manner, by FCS staff, at the conclusion of the Mediation/CCRC services.  FCS will not provide copies of any supplemental documents to the Court or to the other parties on the case.  Providing document to FCS does NOT result in the documents being submitted to or considered by the Court.  If you have documents that you would like to be considered by the Court, you must file those documents with the Court by following the standard filing procedures.  Please contact the Self-Help center or the Family Law clerk’s office for additional information about how to file documents with the Court.

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Who are the mediators/CCRCs?
The court employs experienced Family Court staff who have Master’s Degrees and specialized training in areas pertaining to children and families.  These areas include, but are not limited to, conflict resolution, parenting techniques, children’s developmental stages, domestic violence, substance abuse and child abuse and neglect.

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Can I talk to the mediator/CCRC before or after my FCS appointment?
Neither party may contact the mediator/CCRC prior to or following their FCS appointment.
For general procedural questions please contact FCS at 559-457-1677
or email FCS at FresnoFCS@fresno.courts.ca.gov.

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How do I get my Mediation/CCRC documents after my appointment?
Parental agreement – a copy of your parental agreement, full or partial, will be available for you at the FCS Clerk’s office on the 1st Monday following your FCS appointment after 1:00 p.m.  Unless you made other arrangements with the mediator during your FCS appointment, only you can pick up your documents and you will need to bring a photo ID to receive your documents from the FCS Clerk’s office.  If you do not pick up your documents from FCS prior to your court hearing they will be available for you once you check in with the department the day of your hearing.

CCRC Custody/Visitation recommendation – a copy of the CCRC’s recommended custody plan will be available for at the FCS Clerk’s office two court days prior to your hearing.  Unless you made other arrangements with the counselor during your CCRC session, only you can pick up your documents and you will need to bring a photo ID to receive your documents from the FCS Clerk’s office.  If you do not pick up your documents from FCS prior to your court hearing the documents will be available for you once you check in with the department the day of your hearing.

Tier 2 and CCRC Reports – you will receive a copy of the counselor’s report from the Judicial Officer at the time of your hearing.  FCS is unable to release these reports prior to your court hearing.

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What if I am unhappy about the services I received from FCS?
FCS is dedicated to providing fair and timely services to the families we serve.  If you have any concerns about the services that you received from FCS we would appreciate it if you would take the time to inform us of your concerns.  Please fill out and submit the Family Court Services Complaint Form and/or the Request for Change of Mediator/CCRC Counselor Form.  Please read the following instruction carefully to determine which form will best fit your needs.

Family Court Services Complaint Form – If you have any concerns about how your case was handled by any of the FCS staff, please complete and summit the Family Court Services Complaint Form.  This form will help us to better understand the nature of your complaint.  Note: this form will not serve as a request for a new mediator/CCRC counselor.

Request for Change of Mediator/CCRC Counselor Form – If you would like to have a different mediator/CCRC for any upcoming FCS appointments, please complete and submit the Request for Change of Mediator/CCRC Counselor Form.  Once you have submitted this form and we are able to verify that the other parent has also received a copy of your request, we will investigate your request and determine whether or not your request can be granted.    A change of mediator/CCRC counselor may be granted by FCS when a conflict of interest exists.  A conflict of interest exists if it is determined that one or more of the following has occurred:

  • The mediator/CCRC counselor has personal knowledge of the matter or parties outside of the Mediation context;
  • The mediator/CCRC counselor has a financial interest in the potential outcome of the matter;
  • The mediator/CCRC counselor is related to the parties within the third degree;
  • There is substantial doubt as to the impartiality of the mediator/CCRC counselor.

Note: Requests for a change of mediator/CCRC on the day of your FCS appointment will NOT be accommodated.  This request must be submitted to FCS prior to your upcoming Mediation/CCRC appointment to allow FCS time to confirm that a copy of this form was provided to the other parent and to allow FCS time to investigate your request. 
These forms are available at the FCS Clerk’s Office or you can download the forms from the links below.  Please read the informational sheet attached to each form for additional information.  You may submit the forms at the FCS Clerk’s Office or via email:
FresnoFCS@fresno.courts.ca.gov

Family Court Services Complaint Form

Request for New Mediator/CCRC Counselor Form

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How do I subpoena a mediator/CCRC?
Pursuant to Family Code §3177, Mediation proceedings under Family Code section 3160 et seq., such as those provided during a Tier 1 – Confidential Mediation here at the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno, must be held in private and are confidential and all communications, verbal and written, from the parties to the mediator are deemed to be “official information” within the meaning of Evidence Code section 1040.  Due to the confidential nature of the Mediation process the mediator must assert that all information that was obtained, verbal and written, as part of the Mediation process is privileged information and therefore the mediator cannot testify about this information.  The official information privilege belongs to the Court, not the parties, therefore the mediator cannot testify about this information.  If called to testify regarding a confidential Mediation session, the mediator will assert the official information privilege on behalf of the Court.

To subpoena a CCRC counselor to appear, the following must be personally served to FCS, as the authorized agent, at least ten (10) calendar days prior to the hearing:

  • The original and one copy of the subpoena to appear;
    • Please note: prior to submitting the subpoena to FCS, the witness fees of $275.00 must be paid at the Family Law Clerk’s office.  Checks shall be made payable to the Fresno County Superior Court.  This check will serve as a deposit for the counselor’s testifying services pursuant to Government Code § 68097.2(a)

In the event the matter is continued, the previously subpoenaed CCRC counselor may be ordered back to the continued hearing date.  The party who subpoenaed the CCRC counselor shall forward a letter to FCS confirming the continued hearing date within five (5) calendar days of the date of the hearing was continued, and shall set forth the parties’ names, the Fresno County Superior Court case number, the name of the CCRC counselor and the continued hearing date.

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Our Mission

The Family Court Services Department shall serve the Families of our Community and enhance public trust and confidence in the Family Court process. We shall, by the impartial and timely resolution of issues, comply with court directives and ensure that the best interests of the children are served.

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