Preparing for Custody Mediation
Most California courts have a Family Services division, which require parties to participate in mandatory mediation when custody issues are involved.
Unlike private mediations with a mediator the parties privately pay, these are done in front of a court-appointed mediator who is usually a retired judge or lawyer and is free of cost to the parties.
Parties often wonder what to expect when it comes to these mediation sessions and how to prepare.
Why Is Mediation Required?
Mediation is required under California Family Code 3170, which states that if it appears on the pleadings filed to obtain or modify a temporary or permanent custody or visitation order that the matter is contested, the court shall set any contested issues for mediation.
However, if domestic violence is a part of the case, other arrangements may be made in lieu of mediation given the circumstances.
These services can include parent education programs, video records and booklets, and other referrals to community resources.
Preparing for the Mediation
If custody is in dispute, odds are it is because one of the parties is not being reasonable in reaching a settlement agreement.
This situation is a common one in any family law case. Many times, if one side is not being agreeable to working on a solution, the other party is left to ask why they need to go to mediation at all.
It helps to keep certain tips in mind when preparing for mediation if one party is being particularly difficult. Keep in mind that the parties are only required to participate in mediation. They are not required to come to an agreement. An agreement should only be reached if it truly is in the best interests of the children involved. Do not let the other side pressure you into agreeing to something that would otherwise not be an agreement.
In addition, it helps to be reasonable with expectations before going into mediation. It will only be successful if the parties come into the mediation with an open mind and willingness to listen and be reasonable.
However, being reasonable does not mean that the client has to feel obligated to agree to something that he or she does not feel is in the best interests of the children.
Ideally, the best interest standard is the most important concept to keep in mind. Even when the adverse party is trying to bully the other party into an agreement that is one-sided and clearly not beneficial for the children, this standard needs to be kept in mind. The child’s best interest will be what guides the judge’s decision if the mediation is not successful.
What to Expect
The mediator will first want to get each parent’s position on custody issues and will ask for facts that help support these positions.
Keep in mind that the mediator has been trained in handling these types of contested situations. Many of them are retired judges who have regularly presided over custody disputes. They know what works and what does not. They will use this knowledge and training to help try to guide the parents towards a reasonable compromise.
It is recommended that the parties be open and honest, as this candid discussion will help the mediator truly understand the facts of the case.
However, be polite and do not argue with the mediator or the other party. If the other side says something not true, simply state that it is not true and provide facts that support the “true” position.
Do not make any personal attacks against the other party. This can be hard to do as emotions can run high when custody is in dispute.
Do not interrupt the mediator or the other side while he or she is talking. Always keep the best interests of the children in mind when discussing possible settlement options.
It helps having an attorney when coming into mediation. Essentially all family law attorneys have been through the process, know what to expect, and can advise the client on how to proceed.
It is best to have a meeting with the attorney before going to the mediation so that expectations are set ahead of time and the parties can prepare for the mediation proceedings. Attorneys can often keep the client’s expectations reasonable beforehand. This alone can help get the mediation process off to a successful start.
Contact Voss Law Today!
If you are going through a divorce or custody battle and have questions regarding what to expect during mediation, contact us today to discuss the best options for your case. Consultations are always free. Call us today at 323-333-4481.