Family Code 216 Prohibits "Ex Parte" Communications With Mediators and Evaluators
Learn how Family Code 216 prohibits lawyers and even the court from ex parte communications
Family Code 216
California Family Code 216 prohibits "ex parte" communications
What is Family Code 216? What does Family Code 216 prohibit and what does "ex parte" communication mean. Let's get into it.
Family Code 216 states the following.
"(a) In the absence of a stipulation by the parties to the contrary, there shall be no ex parte communication between the attorneys for any party to an action and any court-appointed or court-connected evaluator or mediator, or between a court-appointed or court-connected evaluator or mediator and the court, in any proceedings under this code, except with regard to the scheduling of appointments.
(b) There shall be no ex parte communications between counsel appointed by the court pursuant to Section 3150 and any court-appointed or court-connected evaluator or mediator, except where it is expressly authorized by the court or undertaken pursuant to paragraph (5) of subdivision (c) of Section
(c) Subdivisions (a) and (b) shall not apply in the following situations:
(1) To allow a mediator or evaluator to address a case involving allegations of domestic violence as set forth in Sections 3113, 3181, and 3192.
(2) To allow a mediator or evaluator to address a case involving allegations of domestic violence as set forth in Rule 5.215 of the California Rules of Court.
(3) If the mediator or evaluator determines that ex parte communication is needed to inform the court of his or her belief that a restraining order is necessary to prevent an imminent risk to the physical safety of the child or the party.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the responsibilities a mediator or evaluator may have as a mandated reporter pursuant to Section 11165.9 of the Penal Code or the responsibilities a mediator or evaluator may have to warn under Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California (1976) 17 Cal.3d 425, Hedlund v. Superior Court (1983) 34 Cal.3d 695, and Section 43.92 of the Civil Code.
(e) The Judicial Council shall, by July 1, 2006, adopt a rule of court to implement this section."
Analysis of Family Code 216
Family Code 216 prohibits either party's attorney to commuicate with a mediator or evaluator without the other party's attorney being part of that communication. The exception is to schedule an appointment. The court also cannot have such "ex parte" communication with the mediator or evaluator. Family Code 216 also applies to a lawyer appointed for the child or children.
The parties (usually through their lawyers) can enter into a written agreement to bypass Family Code 216's limitations.
Family Code 216 does not apply in a situation where the mediator or evaluator needs to communicate allegations of domestic violence.
It also does not apply if the mediator or evaluator needs to inform the judge that they believe a restraining order is needed for the safety of the child and the parties. This section of Family Code 216 exists because mediators and evaluators are still mandated reporters, even if they are court-appointed.