Family Court Services Mediation Tier System - Fresno Superior Court

Family Law icon Project Name: Brief Focused Assessments
Court: Fresno Superior Court
   Documents: Presentation
    Local Rules
   Links: Family Court Services Webpage

Overview/Program Description:

Historically Fresno was a recommending court for ALL cases (one size fits all). Now Fresno Family Court Services (FCS) offers different levels and kinds of service, based on case-specific criteria:

  1. Court Child Custody Recommending Counselor (CCRC) - for emergency circumstances.
  2. Courtroom Domestic Violence (DV) Mediation - brief, non-recommending, in-court mediation for DV calendar to address custody if a permanent restraining order is granted.
  3. Tier I Non-Recommending Mediation - for all Readiness Calendar (regularly filed) cases.
  4. Tier II Fact Finding Mediation - additional non-recommending mediation designed to provide the judicial officer with additional factual information to assist in making custody orders in cases identified by the judicial officer. The mediator writes a fact-based report regarding the additional information gathered (attendance records, Child Protective Services history, criminal history, etc.) but does not provide a recommendation.
  5. Tier III CCRC - additional recommending counseling services designed to provide the judicial officer with a report and recommendation from the CCRC, including interviews with children ages five and older, in cases identified by the judicial officer.

Program Benefits/Savings:

Timely Resolution of Custody Disputes:
  • Reduced the wait time from an average of nine to eleven weeks to one week.
  • Parties are able to have their agreements signed the day of their mediation appointment for faster results.
  • Parents are more invested in developing their own agreements prior to being referred to mediation.

Better Use of Court Resources:
  • Reduced the wait time for mediation appointments without hiring additional mediators.
  • More focus on developing parenting agreements.
  • Increased the collaboration between the mediators and courtroom staff and judicial officers.

Empowering Parents:
  • Mediation agreement rates went from 27 percent to 63 percent.
  • Parents are learning how to effectively co-parent through the development of their agreements.

Other Courts Using Similar Programs:
  • Napa Superior Court (Same Day Mediation)
  • Placer Superior Court
  • San Bernardino Superior Court
  • San Diego Superior Court (FCS Scheduling System)
  • San Luis Obispo Superior Court
  • San Mateo Superior Court (ADR/Mediation Program)
  • Santa Barbara Superior Court
  • Siskiyou Superior Court
  • Sonoma Superior Court (Multi-Disciplinary High Conflict Resolution Program)
  • Ventura Superior Court (Family Court Services)