Court ordered Orange County child custody mediation is required any time either parent seeks a court order or a modification of a court order related to child custody and visitation.
California law and Orange County family law local rules requires that the mediation must be set either before or at the same time as the actual hearing date on the custody issues. If a parent fails to attend the child custody mediation and fails to participate, that parent may be prevented from being heard on the custody or visitation request.
In Family Court, the mediation is typically set one to two weeks before the custody hearing. The mediator sits down with both mother and father and speaks with them regarding the facts the case, specifically on the issues of custody and visitation. The purpose of the child custody mediation process is to give the parents an opportunity to settle the custody or visitation issues and avoid a hearing. It is also designed to reduce anger and bitterness between the parents by helping them develop an agreement that ensures the child’s continuing contact with both mom and dad so long as such contact is consistent with the child’s best interest.
If a custody mediator determines that there are issues of domestic violence, child abuse or any other significant events that needs to be investigated further before the court rules on the custody issues, the mediator can recommend such investigation to take place. Such a recommendation typically is made to the court in a confidential mediation form and, in family court, the judge will inform the parents of the custody mediator’s recommendations.
A child custody mediator is traditionally a member of the family conciliation court, probation department, or a mental health service agency. They are required to meet certain minimum educational requirements in behavioral science related to marriage and family relationships. Custody mediators are also required to meet specific requirements and experience in counseling, psychotherapy or both and must possess certain specified knowledge in such a field.
Let’s go through some specific protocol that relates to child custody mediations:
1. A child custody mediation appointment is given to whichever parent filed for a custody order or a modification of an order. If the parents successfully reach an agreement before the custody mediation appointment, then both parents and their lawyers must contact Family Court Services and cancel the appointment and specifically advise the mediation office that they have reached an agreement. Failure to do so could result in a fine.
2. At the Orange County child custody mediation, the parents are presented with a private and safe setting at the family law courthouse to communicate with the mediator. Lawyers are not permitted in mediations unless the mediator makes an exception to allow the family law attorneys to attend. In our extensive experience, it is very rare for a lawyers to attend a custody mediation.
3. An Orange County child custody mediation is not limited to one session. The mediator may request the court continue any court hearing that is coming up to allow additional mediation sessions. Our custody attorneys have seen this when the parents have gotten close to a settlement but the session was not long enough to allow its conclusion.
4. Perhaps most importantly, Orange County local rules require that parents use their best efforts and negotiate in good faith with the custody mediator to avoid the hearing. Any parent or lawyer who fails to meet this mandatory good faith meet and confer requirement can be subject to monetary sanctions by the family law judge.
5. Orange County child custody mediators have the right to recommend to the court that an investigation and report be made consistent with Family Code section 3110 or that a referral be made to a forensic child custody evaluator (a court-appointed psychologist on an approved list) consistent with Evidence Code 730. The custody mediator can also asked the court to appoint a lawyer for the child or children consistent with Family Code section 3150.
6. In Orange County, a mediator will not testify on the mediation conducted, whether or not the parents agree or not.
Mandatory child custody mediation is very important in every child custody case. Parents who do not attend custody mediation or fail to make reasonable and good faith efforts to resolve their custody cases typically face an uphill battle in court.
Our experienced and knowledgeable family law firm can make a significant difference in the success of a mediation. We do not simply send our client to a custody mediation. Instead, we take the time to speak with our client and answer any questions our family law client has as well as inform him or her on what typically happens at a mediation and what the client can expect. This not only puts the client’s mind at ease but allows a client to focus on resolution so that he or she is not distracted or afraid of the process.
If a custody mediation is not successful, we know that it was not the result of anything our client said or did because our client put his or her best efforts and good faith in trying to resolve the custody and visitation issues.
Do you have a pending Orange County custody case? Are you considering filing one? Has one been filed against you? You need experienced and knowledgable family law attorneys to advise you. Contact our law firm for an informative, paid strategy session and let’s get your custody case on the track to success.