California Family Law Mediation

Orange County Family Law Attorneys Explain Alternatives to Litigation

Orange County family law attorneys explain how family law mediation can be an effective means of negotiating agreements that is faster than divorce court.

Since every family is different, the methods for solving one dispute may not work for another. In some cases, mediation is the best avenue for resolving conflicts. A couple can attend mediation to resolve property division in divorce, or they can use a mediator to work out a parenting strategy for their child’s custody and visitation schedule. Our Orange County Family Law Associates can make sure you are strongly and fairly representing your side of the case during mediation so you can obtain the best possible results for your child.

Do I Need to Attend Mediation?

In California, child custody mediation is mandatory whenever parents disagree about visitation or custody. Divorce mediation, other than child custody disputes, is completely voluntary. However, it is an option for avoiding disputed hearings and trials the courtroom. But, divorce mediation is not for everyone. Couples with a history of domestic violence or extremely unequal bargaining positions might fare better in family law courts.

Process and Goals of Mediation for Child Custody

The goal of mediation is to reach a solution that is in the child’s best interests and reduces friction between the parents. If parents already have an agreement, then you need to submit it to the court (with your attorney’s help) to make it an official order.

Mediation can help parents come up with a parenting plan for their children, which includes:

  • Custody arrangements: legal custody and physical custody
  • Plans for schooling and extracurricular activities
  • Summer activities and travel
  • Holiday schedules, such as switching birthdays and holidays
  • Driving arrangements
  • Guidelines for communicating

Court-mandated mediation for child custody does not involve discussions about child support, spousal support, property division or other finance-based conflicts. However, parties can voluntarily attend mediated sessions about these issues. Many people have found mediation to be an efficient and effective means of solving their disputes. If the parties go into private mediation, their lawyers are allowed to be present.

What Happens During Court-Ordered Mediation?

Court-ordered mediation only involves three people: the mediator and both parents. Parents will take turns explaining their side of the story and making requests for child custody and visitation. The mediator is neutral party tasked with helping parents decide what is in the best interests for the child. The mediator is not a judge and does not decide child custody. The mediator’s job is to facilitate negotiation so the parties come to an agreement on their own.

If parents can agree to a plan, a Judicial Officer will review the plan and either approve or reject it. If the parents can only agree to a few terms, the remaining terms will require either additional mediation or a trip to the courtroom to argue both sides.

What if Mediation Does Not Produce a Favorable Result?

If mediation cannot reach an agreeable solution, the parties involved have a few options. They might continue the mediation sessions, the mediator might request to speak with the parents’ attorneys, or the parents may need to argue their cases in a family law courtroom. If you go to court, a Judicial Officer will make a decision about what type of living situation is in your child’s best interests. Your mediator will not play a role in these court proceedings.

If the mediator deems it necessary, he or she may wish to speak to your child to learn more about his or her living situation. The mediator will not ask the child which parent he or she prefers to live with.

Attorneys for California Family Law Mediation

Curious about what your best option is? Schedule a consultation with our Orange County family law attorneys. We can give you our informed opinion based on the facts of your situation. You owe no fees for your first meeting with us.