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Child Custody Mediation
What is the Purpose of Mediation?
When parents separate, a great many changes occur in a family. For children,
their world is turned upside down and they look to their parents for answers to
questions such as “Where will we live?”; “Will I still see both of my
parents?”; “Who will take care of me?” Parents too feel confused and
overwhelmed by the decisions they face about how they will care for their
children and how they will manage financially. Often parents are faced with
these decisions when mutual trust is low and communication is poor.
Mediation through Family Court Services offers a neutral place for parents to
plan for their children’s care and to discuss how responsibilities for the
children will be shared. Parents must attempt to resolve the issues of Legal
and Physical Custody by participating in mediation before the Court makes
orders. A mediation session lasts approximately one and one-half to two hours.
With the assistance of a child custody mediator, parents can develop their own
written parenting plan which describes how decisions will be made (Legal
Custody) and when the children will be with each parent (Physical Custody). The
Physical Custody plan or time-sharing schedule includes a regular schedule as
well as a holiday and vacation schedule. The agreement can also include
transportation arrangements, and any other agreements about the care of and
responsibility for the children. When the parents reach an agreement, it is
signed by the judge and becomes a court order which is legal and binding on
How Do You Prepare for Mediation?
Parents must complete a parent orientation program on-line prior to mediation.
This program provides useful information to help litigants co-parent and draft
Find the OUR CHILDREN FIRST program at www.lasuperiorcourt.org under Family.
Click on the link to begin. Have your Family Law case number ready. At the end
of the program, you will be able to print a Certificate of Completion to be
filed at the courthouse where your case is assigned.
If you are unable to access the internet you may complete the orientation
program by attending the Parents and Children Together (PACT) class offered on
the first Thursday of each month at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, 111 N. Hill
St., Room 222, Los Angeles, CA 90012. The English class is from 8:30 AM to
11:30 AM and the Spanish class is from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Please arrive 30
minutes early to register.
Is Mediation Mandatory?
If there is a custody dispute, you must go to mediation. The Family Code
requires that if there is a contested issue regarding children, the parents
must attempt to resolve their dispute through mediation before the court makes
orders in a litigated hearing. This is true for dissolution and paternity
filings. Mediation may also be used in guardianship cases.
Parents are asked to complete and sign an information form. The information
form may be obtained and completed in advance. The mediator reviews this form
to obtain basic information on the family. During mediation, the mediator will:
Meet with the parents together and/or individually. Individual sessions are
available in domestic violence cases
Ask questions to develop an understanding of the family history
Help the parents focus on creating a parenting plan that is in the best
interests of their children and may share information on the developmental
needs of children.
Help the parents address legal and physical custody, holiday and vacation
schedules, transportation and other areas that are specific to the needs of the
Help the parents to consider the options and work to resolve all, some or none
of these issues
Is Mediation Confidential?
In Los Angeles County, mediation is confidential. Mediators will not make
reports to the court regarding issues discussed in mediation. The mediator may
only submit to the court agreements that are mutually acceptable to both
parents and signed by both parents. Mediators will inform the court if:
A parent does not appear for mediation
Parents cannot reach an agreement
There are child abuse allegations being investigated by the Department of
Children and Family Services
Mediators may recommend a child custody evaluation. The mediator may also
recommend that an attorney be appointed to represent the child. Mediators are
mental health professionals and therefore mandated to report of suspected child
abuse to Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Mediators are also
required to report if you threaten to harm yourself or others.
Are Children Interviewed?
Children are not always interviewed. However, mediators are trained to
interview children. Mediators will interview children if it assists parents in
developing parenting plans. Feedback from children interviewed by a trained
professional can assist parents in developing appropriate parenting plans.
Mediators will never ask children with whom they want to live.
Do Attorneys Go To The Mediation
Attorneys may attend the mediation appointment but are not required to do so.
Attorney participation in mediation can be very helpful in assisting parents to
create an appropriate parenting plan. If both parents have attorneys, both
attorneys must be present in order for either attorney to participate in the
mediation process. Sometimes, attorneys arrange to be available to their
clients and the mediator by telephone. Parents are always advised to bring
copies of agreements to their attorneys.
What Is Included In An Agreement?
An agreement is a detailed description of when the children will be with each
parent. Once the agreement is signed by the parents and the mediator, then
signed by a judicial officer, it becomes a court order. Sometimes, parents may
resolve all their parenting issues in mediation; sometimes parents may only be
able to resolve a portion of their parenting plan. Parents are encouraged to
resolve as many issues as they believe are appropriate. Mediators only draft
agreements acceptable to both parents. Mediators will decline drafting an
agreement that does not appear to be in the best interests of the children.
Parents may return to mediation at a future date to discuss unresolved issues
or modify agreements.
Can I Change My Mind About The
You can change your mind about the agreement. The agreement may be canceled.
Cancellation requests must be in writing and received by the Family Court
Services Mediation Office before the next court hearing or within 10 days of
signing the agreement, whichever occurs first. You may make another appointment
to discuss other options.
What Happens If We Do Not Reach An
If parents are unable to resolve issues in the mediation process, mediators
notify the court that the parents participated in the mediation process but
were unable to reach an agreement.
Although the law requires the parents to participate in the mediation process,
there is no requirement that they reach an agreement.
What If There Has Been Violence Between
Separate sessions are provided upon request if domestic violence has occurred.
Mediators may also initiate separate sessions if there is an appearance of
intimidation. Attorneys and paralegals are encouraged to call the Mediation
Office in advance to arrange mediation appointments that best meet the safety
needs of their clients. Victims of domestic violence may wish to have an
advocate accompany them to their mediation appointment. All Court mediators
receive training to meet state standards.
Who Are The Mediators?
Family Court Services mediators are court employees. Mediators are required to
have a master’s degree in a social science and 5 years post-masters experience
working with families and children. Most mediators exceed the minimum
requirements. All mediators receive ongoing professional training. Many
mediators hold licenses in clinical social work or marriage, family and child
counseling. Currently, a number of our mediators speak Spanish.
Are There Professional Standards For
The state has standards for conducting mediation that are described in
California Rules of Court 5.210.
You must have a Family Law case number to schedule a mediation appointment. In
addition, parents must have a pending court hearing or be in the process of
filing for a hearing and have a child custody or visitation dispute.
Appointments may be scheduled on-line. Appointments scheduled on-line will be
confirmed by e-mail. If you have not received a response from Family Court
Services within two days, please call the Mediation Office at 213-974-5524,