How to Use Mediation to Establish Child Custody and Visitation Schedules When Child Custody Mediation is ordered by the Court
If you have child custody dispute in California, prepare to participate in a mediation session before your case is ever heard by a judge. The mediation or “conciliation” is mandatory in all family law courts. Mediation sessions are scheduled at the courthouse. Licensed therapists are approved to mediate child custody disputes.
Mediation is intended to help parents mutually resolve disagreements related to custody issues. The mediator has the skills to provide guidance to parents during this process. Only problems related to custody and visitation are to be discussed during mediation sessions. It is not the place to talk about financial concerns such as child or spousal support.
Attorneys are not permitted to attend mediation sessions with clients. If you have retained a family law attorney, they will be excluded from this process. The only other person that can participate in the mediation is a counselor or other person who provides support to victims of domestic violence. This is only allowed if there is a clear history of domestic violence between the parents. Or you can ask the mediator to hear from both parties separately so you do not have to be in the room at the same time as the other parent.
Children should not be included in mediations. It can be a bad idea to even bring them to the courthouse. Unless they indicate otherwise, mediators usually are not interested in speaking to or hearing from children. The only time a mediator will ask you to bring the children is if it has been ordered by the court.
How to Participate in a Mediation Session when you are Concerned for your Safety
Depending upon the exact nature of the issue being mediated, it may be necessary to have both parents in the mediation session at the same time. If one of the parents is afraid of the other parent, the mediator has the authority to use separate rooms for the parents to limit interaction.
Allegations of domestic violence are not always based on fact. If the other parent makes an accusation against you, it is important to act as politely as possible when around them. Never confront the other person since this can be used to support your claim. Let the mediator help you resolve disagreements you have with the other parent.
To make a good impression that can counter unfounded abuse allegations, speak in a quiet voice and respect others by not interrupting when they are talking. Try not to show your frustration through your body language.