In California, mediation in child custody cases is required by Family Code Section 3170 where there is a dispute between the parents regarding custody and/or visitation. The court encourages parties to avoid the expense, time, stress and hostilities of court proceedings by trying an informal dispute resolution process either through Family Court Services or private mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation generally takes place through Family Court Services, a county agency, which interviews the parents and sometimes the children in order to make recommendations regarding custody and visitation. In some counties, written recommendations can be influential with a judge when the parties are unable to agree on a parenting plan. The mediation process is explained in more detail here.
Those counties in which the court allows mediators to make written recommendations are referred to as “Recommending Counties.” In Southern California, these counties include San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura. Los Angeles and Orange County are “Non-Recommending Counties,” which means that no written recommendation is provided to the court unless the parties have reached an agreement.
How Private Mediation in Child Custody Cases Works
As an alternative to mediation through Family Court Services, private mediation can be used. In private mediation, the parties select and pay for a neutral mediator who will work with them to reach a voluntary agreement before going to court. The parties may choose to have their mediator conduct several sessions in an effort to help the parties reach an agreement on a parenting plan that works for their particular situation.
If an agreement is reached, it can be submitted to the court and generally will be approved by the judge. If no agreement is reached, the court is advised that the parties attempted mediation but that no agreement had been reached. The advantage of private mediation is that the parties and the mediator can meet as often as they wish, allowing a more in-depth opportunity for the parties to participate with the mediator in discussing family issues and specific needs of the children.
Benefits of Mediation in Your Child Custody Case
The mediation process may have value for the parents whether a written recommendation is made or not as it brings the parties together and provides an opportunity to discuss the issues and needs of the family regarding a parenting plan. The importance of mediation cannot be emphasized enough since the judge will be greatly influenced by the report of an unbiased third party.
In these cases, it is particularly important to present your wishes regarding custody and visitation in a clear, concise, considerate and calm manner. Using terms like “our children” rather than “my children” can have a positive influence on the mediator. Also, addressing any special needs of the children, such as extracurricular activities or counseling, is important because it demonstrates to the mediator that you are acting in the best interest of the children.
When the minor children are infants, it is particularly important – especially for fathers – to share their parenting experiences and have a good plan for child care in place if work or school is involved. With older children, it is particularly important to share with the mediator how you will supervise them and what kind of sleeping accomodations you have available. Another significant factor is your work schedule and how it will effect your time with the children.
Call the Family Law Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you are facing a complex child custody issue, it is important to retain the services of an experienced family attorney at Wallin & Klarich. Our attorneys have over 30 years of experience handling family law issues. We have the skill and knowledge necessary to obtain the best possible outcome in your case and we will prepare you for every step of the legal process.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich family law attorney near you no matter where you are located.
Call us today (888) 749-7428 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.