Divorce Mediation for Custody/Photo by Victoria Borodinova
Why Should I Mediate My Custody Case?
Because this is YOUR family. What works for other families may or may not work for you. Only YOU and YOUR PARTNER know what’s best for your family.
Mediation is designed to help divorcing or unmarried separating parents reach an agreement on legal and physical custody of their children without the pain and expense of a court battle.
How Does Mediation Work?
In a mediation session, both of you will meet with a trained mediator. The mediator can be a licensed attorney (or not), a licensed mental health professional (or not), or anyone who has been trained to mediate family disputes.
You will usually meet in an informal setting (unlike Court). Currently, my office offers Zoom mediation.
What Does the Mediator Do?
The mediator is tasked with helping you come to an agreement. Even if the mediator is a licensed attorney, they do NOT represent either you or your spouse.
Think of the mediator as a guide, navigating you through all of the family law issues such as child custody and visiation, cihld support, spousal support and property division.
The mediator will not represent either of you – rather, they are a NEUTRAL third party.
The mediator is not a judge – he/she will not make decisions for you. Rather, mediators use their knowledge and skill to try to facilitate a compromise that both spouses can live with.
Does the Mediator Prepare Paperwork?
Depends on the mediator. My office does. After we successfully reach an agreement in mediation, you both can hire my office to prepare all the paperwork of an uncontested divorce, or uncontested parentage case (where coparents aren’t married).
My Ex And I Both Want Custody and We Don’t Agree!
Child custody isn’tall or nothing anymore. In most jurisdictions, joint custody is preferred. In California, the legislature mandates, “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” in a separation.
It’s been accepted that children fare better when both parents are an integral part of their life, and that’s the intent of the legislature in divorce and custody cases.
Legal Custody v. Physical Custody
Child custody is twofold: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody is decision-making power: the ability to make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child. It includes religious upbringing, and non-emergency medical treatment.
Unless one parent is unqualified for some reason, legal custody is usually shared.
Physical custody has to do with where a child will live, and will be ordered baed on the child’s best interests.
California Courts ORDER Mediation of Custody
In cases where custody is at dispute, the Courts ORDER parents to participate in mediation prior to going to Court.
When one or both parties file a Request for Orders for Custody and Visitation, the Court will assign a mediation date where the parties will meet with a court-ordered faciliator to try and reach an agreement prior to going to Court.
Court-ordered mediation is often free.
The court-ordered mediation for child custody will help you with the issue of child custody.
For other issues, you always have the option of selecting a private mediator. You can also have the private mediator help you mediate the issue of child cusotdy if the court-ordered mediation does not produce an agreement.
Mediators are Paid to Reach Agreement; Lawyers are Paid to FIGHT
If children are involved, mediation is the best bet. Mediators are paid to help you reach an agreement. You two can typically split the cost of a mediator.
Attorneys are paid to FIGHT. Both of you are paying attorneys high hourly rates ($350 – $1500 per HOUR).
How to Prepare for Child Custody Mediation
- Think about the children first. What are their schedules? Where are their schools? After-school activities?
- Be reasonable. Do not think in terms of percentages. While it is tempting to want “50/50”, children are not pizza or pies, and their time with you should not be in terms of %. Instead, come with a proposed parenting plan.
- Be prepared to listen to the other side. It’s not about winning. It’s about reaching an agreement so your children can benefit from it.
- Don’t forget about holidays.
- Think good thoughts.
- Hire an experienced mediator.
- Get a good night’s sleep!
Below are some sample parenting plans. Also, click here for more parenting plans.
2-2-5 Parenting Plan for parents sharing children on weekdays and weekends
- Parents share both weekdays and weekends.
- Longest period of time away from your child is 5 days when it’s not your weekend.
- Best for school-aged children with equally good attachment to both parents. W
- 2-2-5 is a consistent parenting schedule with “frequent and continuing contact” with both.
- Younger children (under age 5), may not be ready to detach this long from the primary parent.
- May not be recommended for high conflict parents, because this plan involves a lot of exchanges every week.
Week On, Week Off Plan for parents who want less exchanges, and longer uninterrupted time with their children
- May work better for older children and teens, who have a lot of commitments, and therefore less moving around during the week is better.
- May work better for high conflict parents, because less exchanges mean less potential for conflic
- Longer periods away from both parent. May not work for younger children.