Child Custody Mediation in a California Divorce

Custody Mediation Services in California
Northern California Mediation Services
Alternatives to Litigation in California
California Mediation: Family Code Section 3160-65

Mediation may be the key to solving a dispute involving child custody or visitation. These frequently asked questions introduce you to the process.

What's Below

I've heard that mediation is the best approach to solving disagreements about child custody. Is this true?

Mediation is a non-adversarial process where a neutral person (a mediator) meets with disputing persons to help them settle a dispute. The mediator does not have power to impose a solution on the parties, but assists them in creating an agreement of their own. (In Alaska, California, Delaware, Michigan, New Mexico and South Dakota, however, the mediator may be asked by the court to make a recommendation if the parties cannot reach an agreement.)

There are several important reasons why mediation is a superior method to litigation for resolving custody and visitatio522249183

  • Mediation usually does not involve lawyers or expert witnesses (or their astronomical fees).
  • Mediation usually produces a settlement after five to ten hours of mediation over a week or two. (Child custody litigation can drag on for months or even years.)
  • Mediation enhances communication between the couple and makes it much more likely that they will be able to cooperate after the divorce or separation when it comes to raising their children. Experts who have studied the effects of divorce on children universally conclude that when divorcing or separating parents can cooperate, the children suffer far less.

How to find a family law mediator

Several states require mediation in custody and visitation disputes and a number of others allow courts to order mediation. In these situations, the court will direct the parents to the mediator and will pay for the services. Parents can also find and pay for the mediator themselves. With increasing frequency, family law attorneys are offering mediation services for child custody and other divorce-related disputes, as are a number of non-lawyer community mediators. Two resources for finding a family law mediator in your area are:

Academy of Family Mediators
5 Militia Drive
Lexington, MA. 02421
Telephone: 781-674-2663
Fax: 718-674-2690

Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR)
1527 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. #3
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone: 202-667-9700
Fax: 202-265-1968

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Things are so bitter between my ex and me that it's hard to see us sitting down together to work things out. How can mediation possibly work?

Mediators are very skilled at getting parents who are bitter enemies to cooperate for the sake of their children. The more parents can agree on the details of separate parenting, the better it will be for them and their children. And mediators are skilled at getting the parents to recognize this fact and then move forward towards negotiating a sensible parenting agreement. If there is a history of abuse or the parents initially cannot stand to be in the same room with each other, the mediator can meet with each parent separately and ferry messages back and forth until agreement on at least some issues is reached. At this point, the parties may be willing to meet face-to-face.

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