In a divorce, legal separation, domestic partnership dissolution, or paternity case, child custody and visitation may be an issue. When parents are unable to agree on a custody arrangement for their children, the court will require them to attend child custody mediation. Mediation is a way for parents to settle their disagreements about custody without a trial before the judge. As a knowledgeable Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village divorce mediation attorney, I know from experience that a custody agreement is a better solution than a trial.
A custody agreement (also known as a parenting plan) allows the parents to decide what is best for them and their children, rather than a judge who hardly knows them. It avoids the acrimony between the parents that a custody trial often causes and places less stress on the children. Finally, it saves the huge expense of a trial.
At a custody mediation session, the parents will meet with a trained mediator who will try to help them agree to a parenting plan that is in their children’s best interests and that lets the children spend time with both of them. In Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks, child custody mediation is provided by Family Court Services free of charge.
Family Court Services mediators are court employees who have a master’s degree and at least five years of experience working with children and families.
Before the mediation, the parents will typically need to attend an orientation program and fill out an information form for the mediator. At the session, the mediator will meet with the parents together or separately. The mediator will interview each parent (and sometimes the children) to identify the issues that need to be resolved. The mediator will educate the parents about the parenting needs of children of different ages and stages of development. Then the mediator will work with the parents to attempt to resolve the issues about which they disagree.
Before attending a mediation session, you will find it very beneficial to meet with an experienced Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village divorce mediation attorney who can prepare you for what to expect and how to handle yourself.
If the mediation is successful and the parents reach an agreement, the mediator will write up the agreement for both parents to sign. The typical agreement will address legal custody, physical custody, visitation, sharing parenting time during holidays and vacations, and responsibility for transporting the children from one parent to the other. Once the judge approves the agreement, it becomes an official court order.
If the Family Court Services mediation is unsuccessful or the parents prefer, they can work with a private mediator. Private mediation is not free, but the mediator’s time is not limited.
Even when mediation is not completely successful, it can be beneficial. If the parents reach agreement on some issues, fewer will be left to be decided by the judge. And once a partial agreement is reached, the parents may, at a later session, be able to resolve the rest of their disagreements.
If you are not already represented and would like to schedule a conference with Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village divorce mediation attorney Gary Mitchell, please complete the case submission form at the top of this page, and I will respond promptly. Or you may contact me.
Gary Mitchell, Attorney at Law
Westlake Village Divorce Lawyer
4195 East Thousand Oaks Blvd Suite 240
Westlake Village, California 91362