Mediation is different than going to trial or arbitration because the mediator does not have authority to make a decision affecting the parties at the end of the meeting. A mediator is a neutral third party who meets with both sides in a case to help resolve disputes. Often one or both parties will have an unrealistic view on the outcome they can expect. A mediator is usually familiar with the law so that they can keep the sides focused on realistic outcomes.
In California, Family Court cases that involve child custody issues are automatically sent to mediation with Family Court Services. This requirement is set forth in Family Code Section 3170. The requirement to attend mediation is to help the parties work together because they will have to work together cooperatively to implement any parenting plan that is agreed upon.
In order to get the most out of your court ordered mediation, it is important that you go into the meeting ready to work through issues with the other side. If you feel too much anger at the other side, you should consider speaking with a mental health professional prior to your scheduled mediation so that you can make the most of mediation.
The parties participating in mediation will try to work out an agreement that works for them. If all key issues can be resolved among the parties, the agreement will be put in writing by the mediator However, at mediation parties are often unable to agree to a parenting plan. When that happens, the mediator will provide the Court with a proposed order recommending what he or she believes is in the best interests of the children involved.
Mandatory mediation ordered by the court in child custody cases is limited to the issues relating to child custody. Thus, if the parties have other issues, such as when a divorce is first being worked out, it may be best to consult with a private mediator to try to resolve all of the issues in one mediation. The mandatory child custody mediation with Family Court Services will always be there as a backup if you can’t reach an agreement.
It is important to consult with an attorney before going into mediation so that you can make the most out of your time with the mediator. Many people don’t consult with an attorney until after they receive a recommended order that they disagree with. If you want to request changes to the proposed plan provided by the mediator, it is important to consult with an attorney so that you can focus the Court on exactly what you want changed.
Judges are likely to adopt the recommendations of the Family Court Services mediator so it is important to provide the Judge with good reasons for any change you seek. An attorney can help you file the necessary paperwork and condense your request into a short declaration that the Judge will be more likely to read and understand.
If you are looking for a compassionate San Diego family law attorney who can help you seek the best interests of the children, contact Paul D. McGuire at The Law Office of Paul D. McGuire.