The Changing Landscape of Family Court Services Part 2

Recommending Mediation Programs
Family courts are increasingly turning to recommending counseling programs to assist them in processing cases. The huge increase in self-represented litigants requires a different approach to contested custody cases. A recommending family court services program gives the hearing officer an objective, clinical assessment of the family’s dynamics as well as specific recommendations as to custody and parenting time.
The recommending process is similar to the mediation approach in that the parents meet with the family court services clinician (together or individually, see safety section). The recommending counselor will attempt to get the parents to reach an agreement as to the best interests of their kids.
If no agreement is reached, however, the recommending counselor will submit a report with custody recommendations to the court. These proposals are usually adopted and made orders by the court, leaving it to the parents to convince the court otherwise if they disagree.
Your meeting, usually there’s only one, with the recommending counselor will last one to two hours. Your recommending counselor may require a meeting with the children .
The recommending counselor may also require the parents to sign waivers allowing them to speak to the children’s therapist or other collateral contacts that may be useful in their decision-making process. Family court services staffs are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. Additionally, they may make a recommendation to the court as to the appropriateness of a more in-depth custody evaluation or restraining order.
Family court services programs may include your attorney, but often do not allow attorneys to participate. In recommending programs family court services staff has a great deal of power over your case, as their recommendations often become the order of the court.
In turn, these custody parenting time orders may form the basis of your financial obligations or award. Seen in this light, the outcome of your meeting with family court services becomes paramount and your approach to this meeting can make or break your case.

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