HELP! When Child Custody Recommending Counseling Goes Wrong

A Request for Order is pending regarding custody and visitation. All of your supporting documents are filed timely and before your Child Custody Recommending Counseling appointment. You have taken the orientation, have written down notes and talking points, and have done everything possible to prepare for the appointment. You arrived early, spoke clearly, tried to come to an agreement, and felt that the counselor understood your position. Then, you got the child custody recommendation and it was not at all what you anticipated. This scenario is not uncommon. You can be well prepared and still receive a less than ideal child custody recommendation.

It is essential to go into the appointment with an open mind. The purpose is to help you and the other parent come to a parenting plan that best suits the needs of your child. This is not to say that you should not be prepared ahead of time with your goals, concerns and ideal schedule, but rather that you need to remember that, at the end of the day, a plan that works best for the child and the parents will be the most successful.

Have a thorough idea of what your proposed plan is. I always recommend having two plans, Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is what you really want. If everything happened exactly as you want – your utopia – this is it. Plan B is what you can live with, what you are willing to concede on that is still to the benefit of your child.

In San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, if you do not come to an agreement during your appointment, the counselor will submit a report to the judge which includes their recommendations for custody and visitation. On the contrary, in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, if you cannot agree, the mediator simply checks the box that no agreement was made.

If you do not agree with the recommendation or were unable to come to an agreement, you have some options available to you. You can request to be re-referred to mediation. Perhaps you misunderstood the process, or felt that the counselor did not fully address your concerns. In the alternative, you can request a 3111 evaluation. The evaluation is a more in-depth assessment that may take several months to complete. The evaluation will determine what custody/visitation arrangement is in the best interest of your child(ren). It is often conducted by a psychologist or Marriage and Family Therapist who will conduct interviews with both parents and the child(ren) perhaps on multiple occasions.

Family Code section 730 evaluations can be costly, starting at about $3500.00. A Family Code section 3111 evaluation is less expensive and is not as involved as a Family Code section 730 evaluation is. There are many factors to consider when requesting an evaluation. You may want to consider consulting with an experienced Family Law attorney before going down this path.

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The information in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship

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