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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 both parents.

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 their agreement.

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.
To schedule a mediation appointment, go to Schedule Mediation Appointment.
What Happens in Mediation?

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 children
  • 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 Appointment?

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 Agreement?

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 Agreement?

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.
Important
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 The Parents?

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 Mediators?

The state has standards for conducting mediation that are described in California Rules of Court 5.210.
For information about standards for mediators got to the California Rules of Court, Title Five Family and Juvenile Rules.
How Do I Schedule an Appointment?

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, option 3.
To schedule a mediation appointment, go to Schedule Mediation Appointment and be sure to fill out this form Petition for Conciliation and bring it with you to your mediation appointment.
Para español, oprima aquí Petición para Conciliación. Llene esta forma y tráigala a su cita de mediación.
Where Is Family Court Services Located?

Mediation services are provided in the following Los Angeles Superior Court locations:
Court Location Address Phone
Stanley Mosk Courthouse (Central) 111 N. Hill St., Rm. 241, Los Angeles (213) 974-5524
Antelope Valley 42011 Fourth St. West, Room 3575, Lancaster (661) 974-7349
Compton 200 W. Compton Blvd., Rm. 1003 (310) 603-7701
Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse 275 Magnolia Ave., Rm. 3001 (562) 256-2530
Norwalk 12720 Norwalk Blvd., Rm. 701 (562) 807-7271
Pasadena 300 E. Walnut, Rm. 100 (626) 356-5509
Pomona 400 Civic Center Plaza, Rm. 110 (909) 620-3115
San Fernando 900 Third St., Rm. 4059 (818) 898-2721
Santa Monica 1725 Main St., Rm. 225 (310) 260-3711
Torrance 825 Maple St., Rm. 450 (310) 222-8881
Van Nuys 6230 Sylmar Ave., Rm. 213 (818) 374-2210
You may attend mediation at any of the listed Family Court Services locations regardless of where your court hearing is calendared.
Is There A Charge for Family Court Services Mediation?

No, there is no charge for mediation services.
 
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