The Family Court Service (FCS) mediation session is something many families go through when they’re facing divorce and child custody disagreements. Many people know and refer to their FCS meeting as, ‘mediation.’ But it is far from an actual mediation.  If you and your coparent do not agree upon a parenting plan, your FCS Counselor will make a recommendation to the court based on what they think is the most, “child centered plan” for your child(ren). For the sake of clarity, we will continue to refer to your FCS meeting as ‘mediation,’ just keep in mind that if you and your coparent disagree during your FCS meeting, the session becomes more of an investigation with a recommendation for a parenting plan at the end.

For every FCS session, no matter how long or how short your meeting may be, there will be a beginning, middle, and end. Understanding those parts will make getting through it easier. Knowing what to expect can also help you state your case clearly. In doing so, you’re more likely to receive the best outcome for your children.

So, what should you expect and how can you prepare yourself?

The Beginning of Your Session

During the beginning part of the FCS session, you may be asked logistical and risk assessment questions. It can sometimes feel as though you’re being “judged” during your meeting. This makes the session much more stressful and more difficult to remain mindful of your core issues and concerns.  Try not to take things personally and stay focused on your purpose. At this point, you should be able to propose your preferred parenting plan. Being able to explain your plan succinctly will be of benefit to you in the process and help keep you centered.

The Middle of Your Session

The middle part of your FCS session will be more specific with any concerns you might have about your coparent. This is the time to reflect back on the parenting plan you proposed in relation to your concerns. Remember, the mediator will want to focus on the most, “child-centered” plan for your child(ren) and your situation.

So, if you have any concerns, consider how they have impacted the children or you as a coparent. Mediators are professionals who understand these concerns and typically have the experience to know which ones hold a lot of weight.

The End of Your Session

The end goal of an FCS session is to help parents come to an agreement on a parenting plan that is best for their children. Your FCS counselor may make suggestions for compromise that you may not have considered. If you and your coparent are able to agree upon a plan you may be on your way to an effective and beneficial coparenting relationship. This will be great for your kids!

If you cannot come to an agreement, the mediator will make a recommendation based on your interviews and the information they’ve collected during the process. That recommendation is then submitted to the court to aid in their decision on custody and parenting time. The mediator’s recommendation typically holds a lot of weight for the court, but not always.  If you do not like your recommendation, there may be recourse, and we suggest you consult with your counsel.

The therapists in our practice previously worked at FCS and have made thousands of recommendations to court. We are here to help you prepare for your FCS session. Going to FCS without a plan or knowing what to expect makes many parents very anxious. We can help you have a better understanding of what to expect. When you know what you’re walking into, you’re more likely to be calm, collected, and give clear information as it’s needed.

If you’re going through a divorce, child custody disagreement, or you need help re-establishing your sense of self, please contact the San Diego Divorce Counseling Center at and click the Book Online button, or call us at 619-865-3203, to set up an appointment.