Tier 1: Confidential Mediation FAQ

 

Mandated Mediation

Family Code section 3170 requires mediation whenever issues of custody or visitation are in dispute. This applies whenever a "party to the cause" wants to obtain or change a custody or visitation order and the other party does not agree to the change.

 

What is Child Custody Mediation?

Mediation is a process of negotiation between people with the help of a professional mediator who will assist them in reaching an agreement regarding custody and parenting issues..

Family Court Services Mediation is provided free of charge to the parties and generally occurs before the first court appearance. Judicial officers have discretion to impose sanctions regarding the payment of mediation fees under certain circumstances.

 

What is the purpose of mediation?

  1. To help reduce the hostility that may exist between the parties;
  2. To develop an agreement that assures the child(ren) frequent and continuing contact with both parents and that assures the health, safety and welfare of the child(ren).
  3. To achieve a resolution of the issues of custody and rights to parenting time that is in the best interest of the child(ren).

 

What does mediation include?

Mediation may include, but is not limited to, meeting with the parents, child(ren), other parties who may be legally joined to the case, and other individuals who may have information about the situation.

 

When does mediation occur?

Generally, mediation occurs approximately one to two weeks before the scheduled court hearing on disputed custody and visitation issues.

 

Who conducts mediation?

The court contracts with experienced mental health professionals who have advanced degrees and specialized training in areas pertaining to children and families. These areas include, but are not limited to, parenting techniques, children's developmental stages, domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse/neglect and conflict resolution.

 

What if we can't reach an agreement during mediation?

In most cases, parties can successfully resolve and agree on custody and parenting time issues. Mediator may assist the parents to prepare a written custody and parenting agreement. However, if the parties are unable to reach a full or partial agreement, mediator will not prepare any report and will not communicate with the court about what happened during mediation.

The parties will proceed to the hearing for the judicial officer (judge or commissioner) to make the decision and issue an order on the disputed issues.

 

Are both parties seen together?

Yes. Mediators see both parties together. The exception to this is if there is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in place or one party alleges in writing that there has been domestic violence with the other parent. If this is the case, the parties will be given separate appointments. You must notify the mediator if you are requesting separate sessions due to domestic violence.

 

I have a domestic violence restraining order. Can I bring a support person

a support person may accompany you to the mediation appointment. However, the support person cannot participate in, and is required to maintain confidentiality of, the session.

A mediator may exclude a support person from a session if:

  1. The support person attempts to participate in the session;
  2. The support person acts as an advocate for the victim in a session;
  3. The support person's presence or actions disrupt the session.

 

What if I miss my mediation appointment?

Because of the short time frame between the mediation appointment and the court hearing, another appointment may not be scheduled. If the other party attends as scheduled, the mediator may attempt to reach you by telephone.

If both parties fail to attend their scheduled session, it will be dropped and the court notified of your failure to attend. If this occurs, it is important that you still appear at the court hearing on the date scheduled.

 

Do children attend mediation?

Mediator may request that you bring the child/children for an interview. This takes place on an individual basis. Ask your mediator if they would like to interview your child.

 

We reached an agreement during our mediation, now what?

At the conclusion of your mediation session, the mediator will identify in writing those issues on which you reached an agreement and prepare a written custody or parenting plan agreement. Both parties will be asked to review it, and if acceptable, sign the agreement. This may be referred to as Stipulation.

If you have an attorney, a copy of the agreement will be sent to your attorney. The agreement may be submitted to the judicial officer (judge or commissioner) to be reviewed and signed to be made an order of the court.

As previously mentioned, the mediator will not disclose what took place during mediation and will not provide recommendation or testimony to the court.

 

Do we still go to court if we reach an agreement?

If custody and visitation are the only issues in dispute, then both parties may request the court hearing be dropped by notifying the court of your agreement. However if there are other issues that the court has been asked to act on, you must still appear on your scheduled court date.

 

Is mediation confidential?

Yes. Mediation is confidential. Mediator will not submit a recommendation or communicate about what happened in mediation. However, if the mediator suspects child abuse or neglect, a report to Child Protective Services or a law enforcement agency will be made. Additionally, if the mediator learns of an imminent danger or threat of harm against a person in mediation, mediator may contact a law enforcement agency and warn the person about the threat.

© 2019 Superior Court of Placer County