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How Is Custody In San Diego County Unique?

Whether you are in the middle of a child custody proceeding or thinking of filing a motion for custody in San Diego, it is important to know what to expect and how child custody in San Diego works differently from other counties in California.  This guide will help you be prepared for what to expect during your child custody case in San Diego, and why it is very important to make sure that you hire a family attorney who will know the ins and outs of this unique process in order to get you the best result.

Child custody procedure in San Diego County

When you file a motion for child custody in San Diego County, you will be required to attend a mandatory mediation with a program called Family Court Services. prior to your court date.  Every time a child custody motion is filed, both parents are required to attend a mandatory mediation session with a licensed social worker who works for Family Court Services.  The Family Court Services office is located inside every courthouse in San Diego County, so you will go to the office located at your courthouse for your mediation session.  

What happens at the family court services mediation? 

Prior to attending your court hearing, you will be required to attend a mediation session with a licensed clinical social worker.  During this mediation session, your assigned mediator will listen to both parents’ positions and requests, and attempt to assist you and your co-parent in reaching an agreement in your child custody dispute.


The mediator will ask targeted questions regarding what parenting concerns you have about your co-parent and what you want the custody schedule to be.  The mediator will address each parent’s concerns and requests, and see if both parents can come to a middle ground.

It is important to consult with a San Diego family lawyer prior to your mediation session who can assist you in fine-tuning your requests and concerns, as well as brainstorm with you to find possible areas of agreement, so that you go into the mediation prepared with the areas where you would be willing to compromise. 

If you are able to reach an agreement during your Family Court Services mediation, the mediator will put your agreement in writing and send it to the judge , indicating to the judge that you and your co-parent reached an agreement.  

What makes family court services in San Diego County unique?

Mediation at Family Court Services in San Diego County is unique from other counties in California, particularly when parents do not reach an agreement in mediation.  In San Diego, if you and your co-parent cannot come to an agreement during your mediation session, your mediator is required to write a report to the court, which goes directly to the judge, regarding what each person said during the mediation.

This is unique from other counties, in that your mediation session at Family Court Services in San Diego is not confidential if it does not result in an agreement. Because the topics discussed and the answers you give to the mediator’s questions could end up in a report that goes to the judge, you need to be very careful about what you say and how you act during your mediation session.

It is crucial that you consult with a San Diego family attorney who can prepare you specifically for this unique mediation session. Only a family attorney who specializes in San Diego child custody cases will know how to prepare you for this mediation session.


The goal of your family law attorney will be to make sure that your requests are clear and reasonable, that you have child-focused reasons for why you are asking for the custody schedule you want, and that you remember to present your concerns regarding your co-parent in an organized and logical way.

Your family court services mediator will recommend to the judge what the judge should order in your case

Whether you are the parent who filed the child custody motion, or the parent responding to the motion, consulting with an attorney prior to your mediation session with Family Court Services will ensure that you are well organized and prepared to make a good impression with your mediator, just in case the mediation session does not result in an agreement.

This is especially important in San Diego County, because part of the report that the mediator writes will contain recommendations on what the mediator thinks the judge should order in your case, after having met with each parent and hearing both sides of the case.  The judge will then use the report and rely on the recommendations of your mediator at your child custody hearing.

The custody schedule the mediator recommends for your family in the report will heavily influence what the judge will order at your hearing. Because this unique mediation session carries some potentially big consequences, it is important not to wait until your hearing date to hire a San Diego family attorney.


You will want to make sure that you hire a family attorney early in your case before your Family Court Services mediation session, and you will want to ensure that the attorney you hire knows the unique San Diego court system.  Hiring a San Diego family attorney will set you up for the best possible result in your child custody case. 

If you have questions about custody, reach out today to consult with an attorney at Cage and Miles.

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