Mediation is an alternative process to resolve conflicts and differences between spouses in an amicable way – rather than an expensive and stressful court battle. During mediation, spouses will have meetings facilitated by a trained mediator who will help both parties reach an agreement regarding several divorce issues. Topics such as property, children, support, and money issues are typically addressed during mediation meetings. Options are often determined for you, and a family law attorney can help you understand your case’s specific details.

Going through mediation is less stressful and less costly than a traditional divorce. Besides, mediation allows the couple to decide what is fair rather than leaving it up to a judge or a court, and in California, this is a private process. The couple’s matters will not be discussed in an open courtroom with others listening and will not result in public papers, unlike a divorce.

Through mediation, both parties can speak about their side of the problem and understand all their options in a safe place. They receive the help of a mediator, a trained professional with a legal background whose primary role is to help the couple reach an agreement while educating them on relevant laws and regulations, so they are equipped to make their own informed decisions. The goal is to come to a compromise through an open, honest conversation without emotionally-charged arguments.

Mediation is a choice in most cases. However, when a couple has disagreements over children and custody matters, California requires couples that have not reached an agreement to undergo mandatory mediation to resolve differences and come to an agreement about children and related issues. This typically happens when dealing with temporary custody disagreements.

How Does Mediation Work in Child Custody Cases?

Court-ordered custody mediation is required for all parties in a child custody dispute who cannot reach a resolution on their own. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you understand all the details of mediation. A trained professional such as a mental health specialist or social worker is assigned to help facilitate the meeting and help the couple walk through their disagreements.

The couple will meet for a few hours, and with the help of the mediator, they will walk through a discussion of the best plans for their children. Essential topics such as legal custody, physical custody, and a parenting plan or schedule will be addressed. During the mediation session, only custody matters will be addressed, and parties cannot discuss other issues such as child support.

California courts have a strong preference for letting parents make their own decisions together rather than going through the painful litigation process to have a judge decide for them. Mandatory mediations have the goal of reducing the burden of unnecessary litigations in court and ensuring children’s best interests will be cared for. You will be required to attend a mediation session before a court hearing on custody matters.

The only ones present in the room will be both spouses and the mediator. Attorneys are not allowed to accompany their clients even if they are currently representing them. Children do not attend the meeting unless you are instructed by your mediator to have children present.

What is The Role of The Mediator?

The mediator is a court-appointed professional who will listen to each spouse and make an assessment based on what they say. A mediator has special training to help couples resolve their differences, and his or her primary role is to help the couple make a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children and allow for enough time with both parents.

A mediator’s job consists of listening to you while staying neutral, providing insights to help you look at different options, assist with deciding when the child will be with each parent and how future decisions about the child will be made. The mediator will also help you consider how to best protect your child’s safety and welfare and make recommendations to the judge.

In situations where there is a restraining order, or the spouses are separating over a domestic violence situation, mediation meetings will be conducted separately with each spouse. A support person is allowed to be in the room, but he or she must remain silent.

Are All Counties Required To Provide a Recommendation to the Judge?

No, not all counties require that a recommendation be sent to the judge. There are two types of court-ordered mediation in California – recommending and non-recommending. The type of mediation you will receive depends on the county where you live. Around 24 counties in California do not have a recommendation requirement.

In court-ordered recommending mediations, the mediator is required to inform the court of what happens during the session and share a report with the parties and their attorneys and the court. If both parents agree with the plan they reached during mediation, the judge will sign the mediator’s report. The report containing all agreed-upon points then becomes a final order once the judge signs it, and the case is considered settled.
On the other hand, court-ordered non-recommending mediations, the court will not have access to details of what happened during the meeting. If parents agree, the mediator will provide the judge with a parenting plan, which will need to be approved and signed by the judge before it becomes final.

The main difference between both types of mediation is clear when parents cannot agree on child custody. In the case of a recommending mediation, the mediator’s report to the judge will include child custody recommendations and suggestions for additional measures such as restraining orders, counseling, or a custody evaluation. The judge will consider the mediator’s report before making a final decision. In a non-recommending mediation, the mediator simply notifies the court that an agreement was not reached, but will not make any suggestions to the judge.

Learn More About Mediation Today

Mediation is a more amicable process for couples to try and reach an agreement before putting themselves through litigation and facing the stress that comes with it. Mediation is only mandatory in a divorce when dealing with child custody matters, and the process for it varies depending on the county the parties live in.

While attorneys are not allowed to be present, it is still helpful for an individual to consult their attorney to be fully prepared for their mediation meeting. Tomassian, Pimentel & Shapazian provide affordable legal services in the Fresno, California area and can assist you with your Family Law and Child Custody needs. Call us at 559-277-7300.