Mediation FAQ

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a cooperative problem-solving process where a neutral professional assists family members in clearly defining the issues in dispute and reaching arguments that are in the best interests of the family. The mediator does not take sides or make decisions for others but helps participants resolve misunderstandings and communicate more clearly with each other.

In mediation, parents are helped to understand the needs of their children, reach agreements in their children's best interests and develop a cooperative parenting relationship. Hostile and uncooperative feelings are reduced so that individuals can better adjust to the divorce and plan for the future.

Do I need an attorney?

Lawyers can help their clients understand the law, make informed agreements, write up the final agreement, and completer the legal divorce procedure.

Must I Attend Mediation?

California law requires that couples who disagree with the requested orders for child custody and/or visitation must attend mediation before their hearing. Parents may request informal mediation at any time even if there are no pending court proceedings, to work out issues or problems around custody and visitation.

How Does Mediation Work ?

The mediator listens carefully to the concerns and ideas of each parent, and encourages the parents to listen to one another with an open mind. Mediators understand that parents know and love their children that considers the needs of everyone involved. The goal is agreement on a parenting plan that both parents can feel good about.

How Long Does a Mediation Last?

Mediation sessions last approximately two hours. You should plan to allow three hours from appointment time to completion. In some cases, additional sessions may be needed or requested.

Can I Bring Someone to Mediation With Me?

Mediation involves only the parents involved. Attorneys, stepparents, grandparents, other family members and friends are not invited to participate in the mediation. On rare occasions the mediator may ask one of these parties if it will be helpful in finding resolution. The purpose of the mediation is to allow the parents of the children to work out their issues together. One exception to this restriction is where there has been domestic violence. The victim is entitled by law to have a support person present in the mediation session.

Do I Need to Bring Any Documents with Me?

Mediation involves only the parents involved. Attorneys, stepparents, grandparents, other family members and friends are not invited to participate in the mediation. On rare occasions the mediator may ask one of these parties if it will be helpful in finding resolution. The purpose of the mediation is to allow the parents of the children to work out their issues together. One exception to this restriction is where there has been domestic violence. The victim is entitled by law to have a support person present in the mediation session.

Do Mediators Give Legal Advice?

Mediators are not attorneys and cannot advise anyone regarding legal practices or procedures. Mediators do answer questions about what you can expect to happen the hearing process in court.

Can I Bring My Children to Mediation?

Only parents are included in the first mediation session. A mediator may request that you return with your children for a future mediation appointment if that would prove helpful.

How Can I Be Protected in Mediation If I have a Restraining Order?

When there is an alleged history of domestic violence and/or protective orders in effect, there are special procedures to protect individuals. Upon request, marshals are available to escort clients in and out of the building to insure their safety. Separate waiting areas are available, and the mediation session begins with separate interviews. The goal of mediation in these cases is to create a parenting plan which assures the safety of both children and the victim. The mediator is required by law to report suspected child abuse.

What Happens If We Reach Agreement?

If you reach agreement during the mediation, the parenting plan that you have worked out is drafted and becomes an order of the Court at your hearing. This allows you to decide the issues for yourselves, rather than letting the judge decide for you. Recent research shows that parenting agreements reached by mutual agreement work out better than judgments handed down by the Court. Parents who were successful in mediation reported that their children had fewer adjustment problems than those who had parenting plans imposed by the Court.

When Does the Agreement Become Official?

The agreement becomes official when the judge makes it an order.

Do I Get a Copy of the Agreement

You may obtain a copy of your agreement at no cost after it is typed by completing a request form after the mediation session, or by calling Mediation and Investigative Services and requesting it. A certified copy of the filed agreement is available through the Clerk's office after the hearing date. A fee is charged for the certified copy.

What If We Are Unable to Reach an Agreement?

Mediation sessions do not always end with agreement, but they provide an opportunity for both parents to freely discuss their issues and concerns around their children. You need not feel that you must reach agreement during the mediation session. You may "agree to disagree" . You always have the option to let the court decide your parenting plan.

Do Mediators Make Recommendations to the Court?

Mediators do not make recommendations to the Court on parenting plans. Mediators assist parents to create their own plans, because parents are most familiar with their children and their needs. Mediators are allowed by law to make recommendations to the welfare of the child. In that case, the mediator may recommend a psychological evaluation, a child custody investigation, a domestic relations investigation, an attorney conference, or that an attorney be appointed to protect the best interests of the child.