Child Custody and Visitation Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is Child Custody Recommending Counseling?  

    Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC) services are provided to parents to help them decide custody and visitation issues for their children.  The parents will meet with a Child Custody Recommending Counselor (Recommending Counselor) to help them develop a parenting plan.  These services were previously referred to as mediation services.

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  • Who provides the Child Custody Recommending Counseling services?

    CCRC services are provided by the court (or Family Court Services) free of charge. The Recommending Counselor conducts the meeting between the parents. The Recommending Counselor is a professional with at least a master’s degree in the field of psychology, marriage, family and child counseling, social work, or other applicable education, and a minimum of two years of clinical experience.

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  • Who can participate in Child Custody Recommending Counseling?

    Typically, only the parents are allowed to participate in the CCRC session. In cases of domestic violence, a support person may be allowed to attend the session; however, the support person cannot participate in the discussion. Please note a current boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse is not a suitable support person. Attorneys are not allowed to participate in the CCRC session and children should not participate in the CCRC session.

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  • What is a ‘children’s interview’?

    A children’s interview is a meeting between the Recommending Counselor and your children – separate from the meeting between the Recommending Counselor and the parents.  The Recommending Counselor can decide to interview the children, or the Judge may also order it.  The purpose of this meeting is to gain a better understanding of your children’s needs so that the court can make orders in their best interests. At times, siblings or step-siblings might be interviewed together, but they are usually seen individually.

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  • What is ‘legal custody’?

    Legal custody refers to which parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the children’s health, education and welfare.  In California, the courts presume that legal custody should be shared jointly between both parents but there are several exceptions to this presumption where the court may grant sole legal custody to one parent.

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  • What is ‘physical custody’?

    Physical custody refers to which parent your children will live with and when.  Joint physical custody means the parents are sharing significant time with the children.  The children spend time at each parent’s house, including overnight stays, according to a schedule that is best for the children.  Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean the children are spending exactly one-half of their time with each parent (often referred to as 50/50 physical custody).

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  • What is ‘sole physical custody’?

    Sole physical custody means that the children will live with one parent only. The children will not be living with the other parent at any time, although visitation with the other parent may be ordered.

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  • What does it mean when the Judge orders ‘visitation’ for one parent?

    If one parent has sole physical custody, or has the children the majority of the time, the court may order a visitation schedule for the other parent to ensure the children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

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  • What is ‘supervised visitation’?

    The non-custodial parent (or the parent who does not have physical custody) has access to the child only when supervised by another adult. Supervised visitation is ordered when one parent is believed to present a safety risk to the child in an unmonitored setting. Supervised visitation involves a responsible third party being present during the visit and monitoring the visit to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. The third party may be a non-professional person that both parents agree to, or the court may order professionally supervised visitation by a paid Supervised Visitation Monitor. The cost of the paid Supervised Visitation Monitor is the responsibility of the parties as ordered by the court.

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  • What is a ‘parenting plan’?

    A parenting plan is a written document that outlines legal and physical custody, as well as any visitation schedules, for your children. The parenting plan describes how the parents will divide their responsibilities for taking care of their children. The plan may include a general or specific schedule of days, times, weekends, holidays, vacations, transportation, pick-up/drop-off locations and times, limits on travel, counseling, and other treatment services. The Recommending Counselor will help parents develop a parenting plan that both parents can agree to and is in the best interests of the children. The court strongly urges parents to construct their own parenting plan (or agreement) with the assistance of the Recommending Counselor in order for parents to maintain as much control over the success of the parenting plan as possible.

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  • What happens if we can’t reach an agreement regarding a parenting plan?

    If you and the other parent cannot agree on a parenting plan, the Recommending Counselor will prepare a recommended parenting plan (or recommendation) based on the discussion with both parents at the CCRC session, and submit it to the court for consideration at the hearing. The Court will either accept the recommendation as written or make modifications before ordering a parenting plan.

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  • What if I don’t agree with the Recommending Counselor’s recommendation?

    You will have an opportunity to preview the Recommending Counselor’s recommendation and raise any concerns regarding the proposed parenting plan at the time your case is heard in court.

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  • What is ‘ex parte communication’?

    Ex-parte communication is either written or oral communication, without the other parent’s knowledge of the communication. Per the California Rules of Court § 5.235 (b)(2), ex parte communication is defined as direct or indirect communication about a pending case without the knowledge, presence, or consent of all parties involved in the child custody proceedings. Ex-parte communication is also prohibited between court-connected Recommending Counselors or court-appointed evaluators, attorney for either parent.

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  • Can I submit documentation to the Recommending Counselor during the CCRC session?

    The Recommending Counselor should not view any documents that have not been presented to the other parent, as this is considered ex-parte communication. Therefore, any documents you would like to give to the Recommending Counselor must be shared with the other parent first. Ex-parte communication is also prohibited between the Recommending Counselor and the attorney for any party, a court-appointed attorney for a child, or the court, except as provided in the California Rules of Court §5.235.

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  • Can I talk to the Recommending Counselor alone, either before or after the CCRC appointment?

    Generally speaking, the Recommending Counselor is not allowed to talk to you or the other parent outside of the CCRC session. This would be considered ex parte communication and is not permitted since both parents have the right to know and respond to what each has said. One exception to this rule is when meeting with both parents at the same time jeopardizes the safety of one or both parents. If you have any safety concerns, please notify the clerk upon check-in and you will be given the option of meeting with the Recommending Counselor separately, without the other parent in the same room.

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  • What if I miss my CCRC appointment?

    You will still need to appear at your court hearing and explain to the court why you missed your CCRC appointment. If you missed your CCRC appointment without a good reason, you may be sanctioned up to $1500.00 for failure to obey a court order, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 177.5. The court may also refer you to Family Court Services to set up another CCRC appointment, sometimes on the same day as the hearing.

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  • How does substance abuse (drugs or alcohol) affect the parenting plan?

    The Recommending Counselor is trained to consider the impact that any substance abuse might have on your ability to safely care for your children and will recommend a parenting plan that considers the best interests of your children.

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  • I’m afraid to meet with the other parent to talk about custody and visitation issues. What can I do?

    If you have any safety concerns, please notify the clerk upon check-in and you will be given the option of meeting with the Recommending Counselor separately, without the other parent in the room.

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  • Can I participate in the CCRC appointment by telephone?

    The Family Court Services Manager can approve the option of participating in the CCRC session by telephone under a limited set of circumstances, such as the parent no longer lives or works in Southern California.

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  • Is Child Custody Recommending Counseling confidential?

    In Riverside County, Child Custody Recommending Counseling is confidential only to the extent that disclosure of the information received is limited to those who have the right to know. This confidentiality will not preclude the Recommending Counselor from making a recommendation to the court, based on the information received from the parents and other related sources, if the parents can’t agree on a parenting plan. Additionally, the Recommending Counselor is required to report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the appropriate Child Welfare Agency.

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  • How much importance does the Recommending Counselor give to what the children want?

    Several factors are considered when weighing the children’s input, including but not limited to the child’s age, level of maturity and level of understanding. Contrary to popular belief, there is no set age at which a child can automatically decide which parent he/she will live with.

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  • Does the Recommending Counselor attend my court hearing?

    The Recommending Counselor normally does not attend the court hearing. However, the Judicial Officer and the parents or attorneys will have the CCRC’s recommended parenting plan (recommendation) in writing prior to the hearing for reference. The Recommending Counselor will only attend the hearing if either parent (or their attorney) has subpoenaed the Recommending Counselor to testify, and paid applicable subpoena fees, or the court orders the Recommending Counselor to testify.

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© 2011 Superior Court of California, County of Riverside