How do I prepare for a California child custody mediation?

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How do I prepare for my court ordered custody mediation? Should I review anything in preparation for my mediation? What should I say during my custody mediation? Can I bring any evidence to my custody mediation? These and many more questions, parents in California custody cases ask before walking into a custody mediation.

The child custody mediation, to which most refer to as the mandatory court ordered mediation, is a chance for the court to get to know each parent and get an opinion from an independent mediator. The court sets this mediation date when a parent files either a request for child custody order or a modification of an existing child custody and/or visitation order. This is not a private mediation which allows each parent to propose a mediator. This is a court assigned mediator, who known nothing about the parents and is expected to give an independent opinion in regards to custody. This is the mediation to which Family Code 3170 refers and which states:

“(a) If it appears on the face of a petition, application, or other pleading to obtain or modify a temporary or permanent custody or visitation order that custody, visitation, or both are contested, the court shall set the contested issues for mediation.

(b) Domestic violence cases shall be handled by Family Court Services in accordance with a separate written protocol approved by the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council shall adopt guidelines for services, other than services provided under this chapter, that courts or counties may offer to parents who have been unable to resolve their disputes. These services may include, but are not limited to, parent education programs, booklets, video recordings, or referrals to additional community resources.”

When walking into a custody mediation, one thing you should keep in mind is that you are under no obligation to come to an agreement. You are there to do what is best for your child[ren] and if you cannot reach such an agreement, walk away. Nobody can pressure you into a custody agreement plan if you do not believe that it will work or will not otherwise harm the child[ren]. However, you are under an obligation to walk into that mediation with an open mind and ready to negotiate in good faith.

10 Most Important Tips to Help You Get Through Your Custody Mediation:

Make sure you get plenty of rest in the days leading up to the mediation. Think about what your child[ren] want from both parents and what you both need to provide for a stable home life. Always remember “This is not about you” and you are there to do “What is in the best interest of your child[ren].”

Admit that your children need both parents to get along. Decide to speak positively about the other parent in their presence and during other times too.

Write down what you want the parenting plan to look like. Include the issues important to your children, such as schooling and activities. Bring your ideas with you to your mediation hearing.

Let go of your feelings about the other parent. Practice your presentation and other phraseology so that you don’t inject any negative emotions.

Agree to share decision-making with the other parent. Both mom and dad have rights to decide on babysitters, schooling, and family issues. This is important because allows each parent equal right and ability to make important decisions regarding the child[ren].

Develop a willingness to speak with the other parent without an attorney. At some point, it will be less expensive and easier to communicate directly with one another.

When practicing for the mediation, stop thinking about who is making mistakes and think about what needs to be remedied. If mistakes have been made, remember, you are there to fix what has been broken and allow the miracle you brought into this world grow up happy and healthy.

Organize your paperwork and make copies to bring to the mediation. The mediator may not have time to look at everything in detail and sometimes they refuse to look at anything, but it’s better to come prepared. Bring the following, if applicable: Diaries, calendars, school records, police reports, psychological evaluations, photographs (always colored), and medical records.

How do I prepare for custody mediation if my county is a reporting county?

A reporting county is a county where the mediator actually makes recommendations to the family law judge after the mediation. In Sacramento, they are called Child Custody Recommending Counselor. I am personally not a fan of this process at all but certain counties in California are reporting counties and the judges actually get to read the mediator’s recommendations. Preparation in counties like this is even more important than non-reporting counties. What you have read above is very important and it is all about knowing the case and the facts in reporting counties because of the mediator’s reporting power.

Do not confuse “reporting” mediators with the powers to make decisions. Just because the mediator made a recommendation does not mean the judge will agree with it. Take advantage of submitting to the court a “Declaration in Support of CCRC Report” if you are not in agreement, have alternative recommendations, or notice that some facts are misstated. Because you have so little time in front of the judge, written declaration are a great benefit.

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Nothing contained on this page or on our website is legal advice nor should it be construed as such. It is not intended to apply to your specific situation or answer your specific questions.