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Family Court Services

Family Court Services

Family Court Services is a department of the Monterey County Superior Court that assists with child custody, parenting time, co-parenting and other arrangements related to children. Neutral mental health professionals work with parties to create custody and visitation plans, report facts that are important to the case, and investigate matters such as terminating parental rights, step parent adoptions, emancipation, and marriage of a minor. You must have a qualifying case open in the Monterey County Superior Court to use Family Court Services. See below for more information.

Child Custody Mediation and Recommending Counseling 

Child Custody Mediation and Recommending Counseling are free services to assist parties with arranging a plan for child custody, contact between the child and their caregivers, and other issues related to separated parents caring for their child(ren) cooperatively. Grandparent visitation and Guardianship cases may also participate in Mediation through Family Court Services.

Fact Based Inquiry 

When there are concerns about a child’s safety or when it seems the child’s voice should be heard, the adults may be asked to speak with the Family Court Liaison about participating in a Fact Based Inquiry. They must agree to the investigation process before the judicial officer can order it. The fee ranges from $350-$700 total, which might be paid in full by one party or shared by both parties in some way.

Termination of Parental Rights/Freedom from Parental Custody and Control Investigation 

If a party asks the court to end the parental rights of a child’s parent, the court will appoint the Family Court Services Department to investigate the request and write a report with a recommendation supporting or denying the petition. The fee for the investigation is $550.

Step Parent Adoption Investigation 

In Step Parent Adoption cases, the petitioner must choose someone to investigate their petition. The Family Court Services Department will be assigned if that is the Petitioner’s selection on their papers. The fee for the investigation is $450.

Marriage of Minor Investigation 

If one or two minors wish to marry prior to reaching the age of 18, they must participate in an investigation through Family Court Services and have the investigator write a report in support of the marriage to get permission from the court for the marriage license. There is no fee for the investigation at this time

Emancipation of Minor Investigation

When a minor wishes to emancipate (declare themselves free of the control of their legal caregiver[s]) they may be ordered to participate in an investigation through Family Court Services that will determine if their petition is reasonable.  There is no fee for the investigation at this time.

Family Court Services Confidentiality & Communication Rules

The Recommending Counselor assigned to a case cannot be the same as the Mediator the parties used in order to protect the confidentiality of what was discussed in mediation. The content of a Mediation appointment, except in occasional circumstances where a report must be made to an outside agency when there are concerns of child or elder abuse or a serious threat of harm by one party towards themselves or another party, is strictly confidential.

The Family Court Liaison gathers facts to share with the Court. They must share material with the Court when the parties are present and can do so by stating the information in open court or by submitting it in an FBI report that the parties receive before the hearing. The Family Court Liaison may share information with outside agencies when the parties sign a release of information allowing information to be obtained and shared.

Once they are signed by the Judicial Officer, Stipulations (Parenting Plan Agreements and Orders), are not confidential – they are Court Orders.

Status Reports, Child Custody Recommending Counseling Reports, Fact Based Inquiry Reports, Step Parent Adoption Reports, Freedom from Parenting Custody & Control Reports, Minor Marriage Reports, and Emancipation Reports will become a part of the official court file and the parties in the case, excluding the child/ren, have a right to the reports. The reports are confidential from the public and cannot be shared in any way without a Court Order allowing the document to be shared with someone who is not a party in the case.

Family Court Services staff notes and internal files, and documents submitted to Family Court Services are always confidential.

Even when the parties speak with the Mediator, Child Custody Recommending Counselor, or Family Court Liaison separately as part of their Mediation, Recommending Counseling, or Fact Based Inquiry process, the information discussed during a separate interview (except personal information that you are allowed to keep confidential, such as your address if you are protected by a restraining order) can and may be shared in a report to the court and/or with the other party in your case.

After your Mediation session has ended, you cannot speak to the Mediator again unless you and the other party have another appointment. After the Report is completed in your Child Custody Recommending Counseling, Fact Based Inquiry, Adoption, or other investigation through Family Court Services, you cannot communicate with the Recommending Counselor or Investigator in the case.

Have you recently moved or have a change of address? Please update your information by filling out form MC-040. Please submit to the court through an e-filing service provider (Attorneys are mandated electronic filers) or US mail.


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