Skip to main content
Skip to main content.

Notice:

Please be advised that due to increasing COVID-19 cases, the Visalia Division Civil/Family Law, Room 201 is closed to walk-ins, appointments are required until further notice.

New Website -

Welcome to the new Tulare County Superior Court website.  Please be advised that the website address has changed.  The new URL is https://www.tulare.courts.ca.gov.  Please be sure to update your bookmarks accordingly.  

COVID-19 Notice:

Please do not come to the courthouse if you meet the following criteria:

·        Sick with fever, cough, shortness of breath or other COVID-19 related symptoms
·        Recently tested for COVID-19 and waiting for test results
·        Tested positive for COVID-19
·        Had direct exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and told to self-quarantine due to COVID-19

If you meet any of the above criteria, please contact your attorney for your case or call (559) 730-5000 Ext. 110

Family Court Services

Family Court Services serves parties who are referred by the Court for Child Custody Recommending Counseling, or whom voluntarily are seeking mediation services and have an existing family law or support case with the Court. In addition, Family Court Services conducts court ordered investigations for Child Custody/Visitation matters, Guardianship of Minors, Probate Conservatorships of adults, Minor Marriages, Emancipations and Stepparent Adoptions filed in conjunction with any related Freedom From Parental Custody and Control petitions. Parties who need assistance filing any of the paperwork associated with these matters can find assistance in our Self-Help center also known as the Family Law Facilitator.

Services Provided

  • Child custody and visitation mediation is mandated in Family Code section 3160 and is part of the process of Child Custody Recommending Counseling. However, if you are referred to Family Court Services and mediation is not successful, the child custody recommending counselor will provide information and recommendations to the court in writing before your court hearing
  • Limited investigation in child custody cases may be conducted when ordered by the court, as provided in Family Code section 3112.
  • Minor Marriage interviews for juveniles who petition for a marriage license, per Family Code sections 302 and 304.
  • Investigation of Guardianship and Conservatorship petitions pursuant to Probate Code sections 1513 and 1826.
  • Stepparent adoption investigations on requests for adoption, pursuant to Family Code section 9001. Click here for local forms and instructions for filing in Tulare County

Interactive Resources

The following link includes the highly recommended  Mediation Orientation video from the perspective of the child:

The following links provide interactive experiences for kids, teens/preteens, parents, and professionals for learning about what to expect during and after a separation or divorce.

What is Child Custody Recommending Counseling?

This is the process in which parents who disagree over the custody and/or visitation of their children meet with a counselor in a neutral setting to mediate and work on their own parenting plan. The Family Code provides that parents shall have the opportunity and the right to present the court with their own parenting plan. The focus of the session is on the safety and welfare of your child or children and how you can best care for them as parents living separately. At the end of a session with the counselor, if you have come to an agreement, he or she will provide you and the court with a written stipulation for your signature. If you do not agree, a written report will be completed before your hearing with information from the session and recommendations for a parenting plan and referrals if necessary.

What is a parenting plan?

When parents are separated, the parenting plan defines legal and physical custody and time sharing of the children. It can be very general or detailed, depending on your needs, and it can include how you will share time on holidays and special occasions as well as for vacations and other events.

How does mediation and child custody recommending counseling work?

Divorcing clients and separating parents may contact Family Court Services, or be referred by their attorney, for mediation and child custody recommending counseling prior to their hearing date. They are also referred for counseling by the court at the time of the hearing. Parents can also schedule voluntary mediation sessions without setting the matter for a court hearing.

The counselor and the parents will meet together, unless there are issues of domestic violence, and the discussion will focus primarily on what will be in the child's best interests; to this end they will put the child's needs ahead of any other agendas in the proceedings. The counselor has been trained to help parents work out solutions to child care and cooperative parenting which will allow conflict to be reduced.

The counselor will spend some time describing terminology, asking parents what solutions they feel would be in their child's best interests, and exploring the past situation. The focus, however, is on the future, and the goal is to draw up an agreement that allows children to achieve a relationship with each parent while maintaining stability in their lives as much as possible during a stressful time. In addition, this agreement must address the health, safety, and welfare of the child.

If parents are not able to come to an agreement during the counseling session, the matter is referred back to the family court calendar. The case may be heard by a judge at that time, or another court date will be set for a contested hearing.

At the contested hearing, the report of the recommending counselor will be available for the parties and judge. It will include the issues presented in the counseling session, as well as any health, welfare, and safety concerns which were expressed. The counselor will provide recommendations to the court. If further investigation is necessary (for example, if your child needs to be interviewed, or if the Court needs additional information such as law enforcement or child welfare records), the court may ask that Family Court Services perform a limited investigation and provide a recommendation. It may be necessary to meet more than once with the counselor to work out problems, either prior to court, or as follow-up/review sessions.

In cases that involve domestic violence, separate sessions and support persons may be used. Information regarding this is available prior to the counseling session. If you are making an appointment for mediation and child custody recommending counseling prior to the court hearing, you should inform Family Court Services if there is a restraining order in place, or if allegations of family violence have been made.

Do child custody recommending counselors interview children?

Children should not be brought to the court hearing. If the Court determines a minor interview is necessary, the Court will order Family Court Services to interview the child and provide a report to the Court. In addition, the counselor can recommend the If, after speaking with the parents, a child needs to be interviewed, the counselor will make arrangements to do so after meeting with the parents

Are children's wishes considered?

The law states that children's wishes will be considered when the child is "of sufficient age and capacity to reason." The judge decides when a child has attained this capacity and must only consider the child's wishes, not follow them. If the parents are unable to resolve their custody issues, a recommending counselor may ask to interview the child in order to clarify issues brought up in session. If parents can come to a decision on their own, this may not be necessary. If a child 14 or older expresses a desire to address the court, the counselor will notify the judge and arrangements will be made for that to occur.  Children should not be brought to court unless the court or the counselor has requested that they be interviewed.

What kinds of issues must the child custody recommending counselor report?

The counselor is required by law to report child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities. The counselor is also required by the Family Code to report domestic violence or drug abuse.

What is a limited investigation?

In some custody cases, the court needs to obtain more information about family issues in order to make a custody order. A member of Family Court Services will conduct an investigation and report to the court. This can include obtaining information from schools, doctors, and therapists as well as results from assessments for drug and alcohol abuse or domestic violence. There may be a fee imposed for the investigation.

Why are you going to be referred to child custody recommending counseling?

If you come to court without a plan for parenting your child or children, it is mandated in the State of California that you be referred for mediation and child custody recommending counseling so that you have the opportunity to resolve your dispute and eliminate the need for a court hearing. Our counselors realize that divorcing and separated parents and their children have pressing needs which must be met. Mother and father may feel angry and hostile, abandoned and uncertain of the future. The responsibilities of a new life and earning sufficient income may be very difficult. Fears of being separated from their children can make the situation even more traumatic.

Children too, have special needs at this time. "Who will care for me?" is in each child's mind. Their stress may be shown in any number of ways, including clinging to one parent or the other; having difficulties in school or relationships; having trouble sleeping or eating; and withdrawing from customary activities.

Working towards a cooperative parenting plan can help minimize these stresses for everyone. Maintaining continuing, conflict-free contact is also important, as are patience, open communication, and giving things time to work. Parents should refrain from making negative remarks about each other in the child's presence, and both parents must accept responsibility for their situation. Working with the counselor to develop a plan for your family can help you in this transitional time.

Why minor marriage counseling?

Family Code sections 302 and 304 require that a judge sign a court order allowing anyone under the age of 18 to get a marriage license. Parties who are under the age of 18 who wish to marry are interviewed by a counselor who provides information to the juvenile court judge. The judge then either approves or denies the request to marry. Parties are required to provide certain documentation to the counselor - our office staff can set an appointment and give you the information you need.

Legal Terms Relating to Child Custody

Legal Custody:The rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of their children.

Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of their children.

Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the children.

Physical Custody: How much time the children spend with each parent; where the children live; how day-to-day responsibilities are fulfilled.

Joint Physical Custody: Children spend a significant amount of time with each parent.

What about resources?

The counselor may recommend counseling or other community resources to assist the family. These can include therapy, parenting classes, co-parenting classes, supervised visitation, therapeutic reunification, drug and alcohol assessments, drug and alcohol testing, domestic violence assessments and custody evaluations.

Supervised Visitation
Domestic Violence 
Parenting Classes

If the Court orders parties to attend parenting classes, this is usually because a determination has been made that a parent can benefit from parenting skills, tools and knowledge to successfully and safely parent their child. If both parents are ordered to attend parenting classes, each parent attends a separate parenting group and files a certificate of completion with the Clerk of the Court. The following agencies provide parenting classes in Tulare County.  If you are not sure which classes to take, please review your Order for Referral to Services for specific information. 

   In Person Classes:

  Online Classes (minimum of 12 weeks - and only if specifically ordered by the Court)

Co-Parenting Resources

If the Court orders parties to attend co-parenting classes, this is usually because a determination has been made that a parent can benefit from co-parenting skills, tools, and knowledge to successfully communicate and parent with the other parent. Generally, each parent attends a separate co-parenting group and files a certificate of completion with the Clerk of the Court. Occasionally, the Court orders Therapeutic Co-Parenting, in which the parents meet together in counseling to improve communication regarding parenting their children. The following agencies provide co-parenting classes in Tulare County.  If you are not sure which classes to take, please review your Order for Referral to Services for specific information. 

    In person Classes

    Online Classes (minimum of 12 weeks - and only if specifically ordered by the Court; a high conflict series is also offered, if ordered)

  Co-Parenting Communication Tools (Apps)

Anger Management Classes

If the Court orders parties to attend anger management classes, this is usually because a determination has been made that a parent can benefit from anger management skills, tools and knowledge to successfully and safely interact with the other parent and children. Generally, a parent attends an  anger management group (usually a minimum of 14 weeks) and files a certificate of completion with the Clerk of the Court. If both parents are ordered to attend Anger Management classes, the parents will attend separate classes. However, parties can also attend individual counseling that addresses anger management, if so ordered and approved by the Court. The following agencies provide anger management classes in Tulare County.  If you are not sure which classes to take, please review your Order for Referral to Services for specific information. 

  In Person Classes

  Online Classes (minimum of 12 weeks - and only if specifically ordered by the Court; a high conflict series is also offered, if ordered)

Batterer's Intervention Program (BIP)

If the Court orders parties to attend a Batterer's Intervention Program, this is usually because a determination has been made that a parent can benefit from skills, tools and knowledge to prevent future incidents of abuse toward a spouse/significant other/parent of the child/or person with whom you cohabitate. This is a 52-week group series and a completion certificate is required to be filed with the Clerk of the Court. Per Family Code 3044, if a finding of domestic violence has been made by a Court, the parent must successfully complete a Batterer's Intervention Program before any modification to custody or visitation can occur. The following agencies provide Batterer's Intervention Programs in Tulare County.  If you are not sure which program to take, please review your Order for Referral to Services for specific information. 

Child Abuse Prevention Program

If the Court orders parties to attend a Child Abuse Prevention Program, this is usually because a determination has been made that a parent can benefit from skills, tools and knowledge to prevent future incidents of abuse toward a child. This is a 52-week group series and a completion certificate is required to be filed with the Clerk of the Court. The following agencies provide Child Abuse Prevention Programs in Tulare County.  If you are not sure which program to take, please review your Order for Referral to Services for specific information. 

Counseling Services

The Court orders counseling services in a variety of ways: individual for children and/or adults, conjoint counseling between a parent and child, or therapeutic reunification counseling when as child has an estranged relationship with a parent after a significant period of absence. The Court usually orders the parents to obtain and file a progress report of counseling at least 10 days prior to a court hearing date, or prior to a child custody recommending counseling session with the Court appointed counselor. Parties are usually ordered to attend counseling until it is determined by the treating therapist that counseling is no longer necessary, unless otherwise ordered by the Court. The following agencies provide counseling services in Tulare County. If you are not sure which agency to select, please review your Order for Referral to Services for specific information. 

If the parents have health insurance, they are encouraged to contact their insurance provider to obtain a list of counselors in their area. It is the responsibility of the parties to contact the providers to determine if they offer court ordered services, and will provide progress reports to be filed by the parties with the Court. It is also the responsibility of the parties to sign any releases of information necessary for the agencies to communicate with the Court. 

Court Approved Drug and Alcohol Testing Locations in Tulare County

If the Court orders Drug or Alcohol testing, the parties will be provided a separate Drug Testing Order in Court. This order designates the party to test, the dates and frequency of testing, and the testing location and contact information. The Order for Custody and Visitation may also have specific information regarding testing and the parties are directed to review both documents to understand their testing requirements and obligations.  The following agencies provide Drug and Alcohol testing in Tulare County. 

Approved Private Custody Evaluators 

Occasionally, the Court orders the parties to participate in a comprehensive custodial evaluation, at the parties expense, if so agreed to by the parties. This is only ordered on a case-by-case basis, as these evaluations are very costly. The following is a list of custody evaluators that provide evaluations to Tulare County families. 

  • Dr. 

 

Was this helpful?