The State of California mandates that all custody court proceedings filed in the state must first attend court-ordered mediation prior to the date of the scheduled hearing. The purpose of such court-ordered mediation is, in reality, intended to reduce the congestion of cases in court by making an effort to assist parents in working out custody and visitation issues with the assistance of a neutral third party.
The court mediators are generally trained professionals who have at least a Master’s Degree and have extensive experience in psychology and marital/family counseling, and are trained in conflict resolution.
In custody mediation, the mediator meets with the parties at the mediation department at the family law court either together and/or individually. If there has been domestic violence between the parties, the mediation is usually held in separate sessions with each parent for safety reasons and to avoid any appearance of intimidation.
The mediator works to assist the parties in focusing on parenting arrangements that are in the best interests of their children and can put together a partial or full parenting agreement schedule (including legal custody, parenting plans, holiday and vacation schedules, transportation or other issues) depending on what the parties are able to agree upon in mediation.
Parents can sometimes resolve all of their parenting issues in mediation, sometimes only a partial agreement can be reached, and otherwise no agreement is reached. Mediators only draft agreements that are acceptable to both parties. If the mediation agreement is still agreeable to both parties at the time of the Request for Order hearing, it can be adopted and incorporated into a court order.
Only the parties attend mediation, with no attorneys, spouses or other family members present, although a second session can sometimes be requested so that the mediator can speak with the parties’ children, if it is believed that such feedback would be helpful in assisting the parties to develop parenting plans.
Gerald A. Maggio is an experienced Orange County divorce and family law lawyer and family law attorney located in Irvine, California, serving the Orange County and Riverside areas. Mr. Maggio assists clients with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, child custody, prenuptial agreements, stepparent adoptions, and other family law issues. Mr. Maggio has practiced law in California since 1999, and founded The Maggio Law Firm in 2005, focusing exclusively on divorce and family law matters.