Superior Court of California - County of Orange

Family Court Services

Please Note
Family Court Services provides mediation and investigation services to families in Orange County. Specially trained Court Mediators are available to work with families in an effort to resolve issues related to the custody of their children. Family Court Services also oversees the Keeping Kids Safe Program that, through community partners, provides supervised visitation services for children and their parents.

Welcome to the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, Family Court Services. In this page you will find links for information about our services. Click on the links below for information about our Location and Office Hours, and for questions and answers about services.

Location and Office Hours
Child Custody Mediation
Child Custody Investigations
Domestic Violence Prevention Services Project
Underage Marriage Recommendations
Keeping Kids Safe Supervised Visitation Program


Location and Office Hours

Lamoreaux Justice Center
341 The City Drive
Fifth Floor, Room 507
Orange, CA 92868-3209
Telephone (714) 935-6550
TDD (714) 935-6439
Office hours, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

See OC Superior Court Location Page for more specific information on location and map.

Child Custody Mediation Information

Question: What is a child custody mediation?
Answer: In California, child custody mediation is a mandatory process (Family Code Section 3170) that provides parents an opportunity to discuss and resolve issues relating to the best interest of their children. Mediation is a confidential process conducted by highly trained Court Mediators who assist the parents by facilitating a cooperative dialogue focusing on the developmentally appropriate needs of their children. It is the task of the Court Mediator to create a safe, neutral setting in which parents may discuss and resolve issues related to the parenting of their children.

Question: How can child custody mediation help parents?
Answer: A skilled and trained Court Mediator can encourage parents to focus on and understand the needs of their children and assist them in developing a parenting plan that considers the best interest of the child and the needs of each family member. What is discussed between the parents and the Court Mediator is not shared with anyone, including the Court. Child abuse is an exception to this rule.

Question: Who conducts the child custody mediation?
Answer: Child custody mediation is conducted by Court Mediators who are skilled professionals with at least a Master's Degree and extensive clinical experience in the fields of psychology, marriage, family and child counseling. Statutory training requirements include: domestic violence and its effects on children; substance abuse; child sexual abuse; family dynamics; the effects of divorce and separation on children; and the developmental needs of children.

Question: How does child custody mediation work?
Answer: Court Mediators understand that parents know their children better than anyone else and want to do what is best for them. The Court Mediator listens carefully to the concerns and ideas of each parent, and encourages the parents to listen to one another with an open mind. The goal is to help parents discuss and develop a parenting plan that reflects the developmental needs of their children and one that enhances the quality of their lives.

Question: How do I access Family Court Services?
Answer: Most of the work of Family Court Services is generated by court filings and petitions which are related to children in the Family Law and Juvenile Courts. We do offer, at no cost, mediation services to parents who want to resolve custody or visitation disputes without filing for a court hearing. This is called "informal mediation" and can be scheduled by calling (714) 935-6550 for an appointment. It is not necessary to have an attorney to participate in the mediation process.

Legal Terms Related to Custody and Visitation:

  • 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 a child.
  • Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
  • 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.
  • Sole Physical Custody: Children reside primarily with one parent and have visitation with the other parent.
  • Joint Custody: This term means both joint legal and joint physical custody. Parents agree to share it all.
  • Visitation: Times when one parent has the children and is fully responsible for them.
  • Supervised Visitation: Visitation is limited to special situations in which a third party, specified by the Court, is present. Supervised, monitored visitation may occur when there is a need to protect children because of drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, family violence, or other serious problems, or when children are getting to know an absent parent.

Question: What is a Parenting Plan?
Answer: A Parenting Plan is an agreement between the parents that spells out the specific details of custody and visitation arrangements for their children.

Question: What are some options for a Parenting Plan?
Answer: Options for Parenting Plans may differ, depending on the individual circumstances of each family and the age of the children.

Examples:

  • Primary custody arrangements often include alternate weekends, a mid-week visit, and alternating holidays, special days and summer vacations with the other parent.
  • Joint custody arrangements allow for the children to spend a significant amount of time in each parent's home.
  • Minimizing the need for child care by arranging time so that each parent has the child during their days or hours off from work, when they can spend time with and care for the child, thus maximizing the children's time with both parents.
  • Guidelines for various Parenting Plans may be obtained by calling Family Court Services (714) 935-6550.

Question: Do Court Mediators give legal advice?
Answer: Court Mediators are not attorneys and cannot advise anyone regarding legal practices or procedures. Court Mediators can answer questions about the court process.

Child Custody Investigations Information

Question: When are investigations regarding custody and visitation ordered?
Answer: The Court may order an investigation in custody or visitation disputes if the judge feels that it is necessary to resolve complex issues such as safety of the children. Court Mediators and attorneys may also recommend to the Court that an investigation be conducted if, in their judgment, it would help to clarify allegations and promote settlement of issues in the best interest of the children.

Question: Who conducts a child custody investigation?
Answer: Child Custody Investigators are skilled professionals who have at least a Master's Degree and extensive clinical experience in the fields of psychology, marriage, family and child counseling. A Child Custody Investigator is appointed under Family Code Section 3110. Statutory training requirements include: domestic violence and its effects on children; substance abuse; child sexual abuse; family dynamics; the effects of divorce and separation on children; and the developmental needs of children.

Question: How does an investigation help the Court?
Answer: When there are custody or visitation disputes at issue, an investigation can be tailored to focus on the specific information needed by the Court depending on the unique family situation. Investigations are designed to gather information, clarify allegations, determine the best interests of the children, promote settlement of issues and enhance family functioning. The investigation is not about declaring winners or losers in the dispute between parents, it is about meeting the needs of the children involved in the dispute.

Domestic Violence Prevention Services Project

Question: What is the Domestic Violence Prevention Services Project (DVPSP)?
Answer: The DVPSP program was developed and implemented by the Superior Court of California, County of Orange in 1997 to address the serious issue of domestic violence and its impact on children and victims. Highly trained Court Investigators gather background information, including police reports, child abuse reports and witness statements regarding domestic violence. The Court Investigator interviews each parent separately and at separate times. Children of an appropriate age may be interviewed. The court receives a written report detailing the Court Investigator’s finding and any recommendations for the protection of the victim and the children during visitation or visitation exchanges.

Question: When is a Domestic Violence Investigation ordered?
Answer: An investigation is ordered by the Court when a Temporary Restraining Order is requested by an individual. Only those cases in which there are children involved are eligible to participate in the Domestic Violence Prevention Services Project. The Domestic Violence Prevention Services Project includes a specialized assessment and investigation provided at no cost to the family. It is not a criminal investigation.

Question: How does the DVPSP investigation help the Court and who does it?
Answer: The investigation provides valuable information to the Court in the form of police reports, child abuse reports, criminal and DVPSP histories and witness statements. The information helps the Court determine who is the 'primary aggressor' and provides recommendations for a safe parenting plan. All investigations are performed by trained, experienced court staff assigned to Family Court Services. All Court Investigators are skilled professionals who have at least a Master's Degree and extensive clinical experience in the fields of psychology, marriage, family and child counseling, or social work. They are trained in investigations, domestic violence assessment and conflict resolution.

Underage Marriage Recommendations:

Question: What are the requirements if I or the person that I want to marry is under 18 years-of-age?
Answer: If you are under the age of 18 and want to marry, you must have the approval of your parents and a Court Order (per Family Code Sections 302-304) approving the marriage before you can obtain a marriage license. Trained staff interview the parents of the underage party and the couple, and assess their readiness for marriage. A written report is then sent to the Court with recommendations to grant or deny the underage marriage request. It is the Court's decision to grant or deny the request.

Keeping Kids Safe Supervised Visitation Program

Keeping Kids Safe Newsletters

Books to Help Divorcing Parents and Their Children:

  • My Mom and Dad Are Getting a Divorce by Florence Bienewfeld
  • Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.
  • Co-Parenting by Miriam Galper
  • Megan's Book of Divorce: A Kid's Book for Adults by Erica Jong
  • Child Custody: Building Agreements That Work by Mimi E. Lyster
  • Death of a Relationship and the Beginning of the Rest of Your Life by Ismail Yassai, Ph.D.
  • It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear by Vicki Lansky

Other Kinds of Mediation Services:

Dependency and Juvenile Delinquency Mediation are available by order of the Court or agreement of the attorneys when there are unresolved issues between parents and children in reunifying the family after children have been in placement or in custody.

Community Resources:

A variety of non-profit social services agencies provide counseling services to divorcing families in the areas of domestic violence, marriage, family and children, and drug and alcohol abuse. Legal assistance is also available. For a list of these community resources, please contact Family Court Services, (714) 935-6550.

Direct Numbers of Additional Community Resources are:

  • Parenting Classes and Counseling Referrals, Infolink: (949) 646-4357
  • Child Abuse, Child Abuse Registry: (714) 940-1000
  • Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Hotline: (714) 992-1931

© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County