Divorce Mediation (Court-Ordered)

In the event that court intervention is necessary to determine a custody issue, parents are required to participate in a court-ordered mediation program relating to their child custody issues prior to their court appearance.  This court ordered requirement involves the attendance of both parents and a court divorce mediator where the sole agenda is to try and find a solution to the custody issues involved.  The parents’ attorneys are not permitted to attend this process, so it is important to be prepared and understand that any agreements made during a mediation session are influential on the final custody determination.  Therefore, one should not agree to a custody arrangement that they may later regret.

What to Expect During Divorce Mediation

Many parents find divorce mediation to be very useful as it is a way to avoid going to court regarding custody and other parenting issues.  During the mediation process, the mediator will not discuss or make agreements regarding child support, spousal support, or any other issues relating to the divorce or separation.  The mediator’s only role with the parents is to discuss child custody and future parenting plans and agreements.  Often, a court mediator will push parents to settle their custody issues while at the mediation hearing.  This pressure to settle is another reason why it is important for a parent to know the particulars of his or her own case and know when to settle and know when to avoid making unfavorable compromises and settlements.

An experienced and knowledgeable mediator should spend his or her time during this process helping to (1) create a parenting plan that takes into account the Best Interest of the Children; (2) create a parenting plan that allocates time with the children to both parents; and (3) inform and educate the parents regarding issues of anger, resentment or other emotional hurdles in the custody process.

It is important to remember that while a divorce mediator may exert some pressure for the parents to settle, the parents are not required to reach any agreement during mediation if they absolutely cannot agree.  In these cases, custody will be left to the court’s determination.

What Do Divorce Mediators Do?

A Divorce Mediator should:

  • – Listen to both parents
  • – Remain neutral
  • – Help the parents look at different options.
  • – Help the parents decide when the child will be with each parent.
  • – Help the parents decide how future decisions about the child or children will be made.
  • – Help the parents consider the best ways to protect the child or children’s welfare and safety.

What are a Divorce Mediator’s Qualifications?

Court mediators are often licensed social workers required to have two years of experience working in a mental health field and a Master’s degree in a social science area such as social work or counseling.  Mediators have experience in counseling and working with stressful and adversarial situations between persons, but counseling the clients is not the main purpose of a court ordered mediation.  Instead, the divorce mediator is meant to solely help the parents come to an arrangement on their own, without the court’s direction or determination, and reach an agreement that will also suit the children best.

Are Divorce Mediation Conferences Confidential?

California rules on court ordered mediation vary depending on the county so it is best to know the rules specific to the county with jurisdiction over your case.  Los Angeles and Orange County have confidential mediation hearings and nothing is reported or recommended to the court.  However, Riverside and San Diego counties allow the court divorce mediator to disclose his or her recommendations to the court regarding a potential parenting plan or agreement even when the parents were unable to reach an agreement during mediation.

Domestic Violence Issues

Court mediators are trained in issues dealing with domestic violence.  Victims of domestic violence have the right to ask to meet with the mediator separately from the other parent.  In the case of a parent with a current civil or criminal restraining orders, the parent with the order in place may have a support person present during mediation as a matter of law.