man with his daughter and ex-spouse
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By Dorit Goikhman
Founding Attorney

Child custody mediation is mandatory through family courts in California when there is a dispute regarding visitation or custody. Child custody mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where the parents meet with a mediator. The mediator facilitates the conversation between parents to reach a mutually agreeable parenting plan. The mediator doesn’t issue a decision like a judge. Instead, the mediator is a neutral facilitator for parents to discuss their concerns about visitation, physical custody, and legal custody.

Child custody mediation is preferred because it can help preserve and strengthen a co-parenting relationship. The parents work together to find a solution that addresses the needs of the children. And using mediation allows the parents to have more control over the outcome than they would if a judge were to make a decision.

How does mandatory child custody mediation work?

In California, courts may adopt either mediation or child custody recommending counseling. For example, San Mateo County has adopted child custody recommending counseling, while Santa Clara County uses mediation. The main difference between the two is whether the person acting like a mediator provides a recommendation to the judge if the parties can’t reach an agreement through family courts.

With child custody recommending counseling, the Family Law Facilitator acts like a mediator. The Family Law Facilitator helps the parents discuss visitation and custody. If the parties reach an agreement during counseling, the Facilitator helps them write the agreement, which the judge can sign to make it a court order. If the parents can’t agree, the Facilitator writes a report with recommendations regarding visitation and custody and submits the report to the judge, the parents, and any attorneys involved. The report becomes part of the confidential file in the court case.

In mediation, the mediator doesn’t write recommendations to the judge if the parents can’t agree. In mediation, the parents’ discussion stays confidential. The mediator will facilitate the parents’ conversation to help them find a solution. If they reach an agreement, the mediator helps draft a summary of the agreement to submit to the court. If the parents can’t agree, the judge will decide on custody and visitation. 

Can I hire a private mediator for mandatory child custody mediation?

Yes, you can hire a private mediator for your child custody mediation. Family courts in California provide free court mediation services to parents with custody or visitation disputes. The free services, however, only focus on resolving concerns with the parenting plan.

If you would like to use a mediator to resolve all concerns with your divorce, you can hire a private mediator, like Off the Record Services LLC. Dorit L. Goikhman, the founder of Off the Record Services LLC, is a trained mediator with a background as a family law attorney. She can help you resolve concerns regarding child custody and support, visitation, spousal support, the division of assets and debts, and other matters in your divorce. Dorit supports high-net-worth individuals in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties with family disputes and helps them find a solution.

Contact Off the Record Mediation Services today so we can get started with helping you with your concerns with divorce and mandatory child custody mediation.

About the Author
Dorit L. Goikhman is a licensed attorney, with years of experience representing clients throughout Central California in business, real estate, and family matters. After witnessing numerous clients spend fortunes and waste years of their lives in litigation, Dorit became interested in mediation and all that it has to offer. Dorit is committed in helping parties work together to obtain a mutually acceptable solution to their disputes at a fair price. Her approach is to keep things simple, confidential, and efficient with the goal of preserving the parties’ assets, reputations, and sanity. If you have any questions regarding this blog, you can contact Dorit here.