In a case involving children where the parties have not agreed on a parenting plan, the Family Law Court mandates that parents “mediate” prior to a hearing on the matter. Mediators have experience in counseling or psychotherapy and must have a master’s degree in a behavioral science related to marriage and family interpersonal relationships.
Parents required to attend mediation include those who are involved in legal actions concerning parentage, divorce (with children), domestic partnership dissolution (with children) and domestic violence (when a parent is requesting child custody orders.
But what will you participate in? Recommending Counseling or Mediation? What’s the difference?
In some counties like Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano and San Francisco, Family Court Services requires parents to participate in Recommending Counseling. The Counselor is charged with the duty to assist parents develop a parenting plan and work out their disputes. If you and the other parent are unable to come to an agreement, the FCS counselor will provide a written recommendation to the Court. You will have an opportunity to review the recommendations prior to your hearing. If you disagree with the recommendations, you will have a chance to argue/ explain to the court why a different result serves the best interest of your child(ren).
Like recommending counseling, parents participate in Mediation to try and work out a parenting plan and resolve their disagreements with respect to the care of their child(ren). If an agreement is reached, the parties will sign an agreement that the Judge generally approves and makes a court order. If you do not come to an agreement, the Judge will decide legal and physical custody, as well as parenting time share at the hearing.
Whether or not you participate in Mediation or Counseling — depends on the county in which your action is pending. Schedule a consultation with us to find out more information. Our staff and the Levine Family Law attorneys are skilled at all types of child custody litigation including alternate methods for resolving disputes such as ADR, private mediation and settlement negotiation.