California Divorce Mediation May Be Required in Your Divorce
If your divorce involves minor children, and you and your spouse can't agree on custody or visitation issues, you may be required to participate in California divorce mediation. After reading this article you will know how it works.
California divorces are handled through the state's Superior Court system, which includes Family Court Services. According to California law (Family Code Section 3170) if divorcing couples can't agree on a parenting plan for their minor children, the court will require them to attend California divorce mediation through the Family Court Services.
If this is the case in your divorce, the good news is that you won't have to pay for the services of a mediator provided by the Family Court Services department. If you have already used private mediation services, it's possible the court will allow that to meet the requirement for mediation.
What is California Divorce Mediation?
It is a way to resolve disputes about child custody and visitation without having to go to court and let a judge who knows nothing about you or your family make these decisions for you. So it is in your best interest to try as hard as you can to make mediation work.
It is a process where the California court mediator facilitates you and your spouse making your own agreement about how you will take care of your children. In California law, this agreement is called a "Stipulation" but is also known as a "Parenting Plan" or a "Parenting Agreement."
What Are the Goals of Mediation?
Family Court Services mediators are experts who can help parents resolve disagreements about custody and visitation. Their goal is to help parents resolve the issues that are preventing them from reaching agreement by learning ways to deal with their anger and resentment. The ultimate goal in mediation is to create a parenting plan that is not only in the best interest of the children, but will also allow each parent to spend time with the children.
Who Does the Mediation?
Although there is no special license or certificate required to be a court mediator, the State of California has developed standards of conduct for mediation. These standards are included in the California Rules of Court 5.210. California divorce court mediators are professionals who meet these standards.
When a mediator is hired by the Family Services department of a California Superior Court, he or she generally has a master's degree in social work, counseling, or a related field; at least two years of experience working in mental health; and knows how the family court system works. Court mediators must also meet specific training, continuing education, and experience requirements outlined in the California Rules of Court 5.210.
What Happens in California Divorce Mediation?
The mediator meets with the parents either together or separately and starts by learning about your family history. You have the right to meet with the mediator separately if you have been the victim of domestic violence. You are also allowed to bring along a support person in cases of domestic violence.
Your mediator will teach you about the needs of children at different stages of development, and at different ages, so you can work out an agreement that serves the best interests of the children.
The parents and the mediator work together to determine the issues that are preventing you from reaching agreement, and then work to resolve them so you can create a parenting plan. The parents will be asked to look at options for solving their disagreements, but it's not required that they resolve their disputes in mediation--just that they attend.
Hopefully the mediation will be successful, and in this case, the mediator will help the parents write a custody and visitation order. If you are getting divorced without a lawyer, the mediator or the parents will give the agreement to the judge to approve and sign. When the judge signs it, it becomes an official court order.
Instead of a written agreement, you could use California divorce forms provided by the Judicial Council. There is form FL-355 which can have the following attachments: FL-341, 341(C), 341(D) and 341(E).
What Happens if We Can't Agree?
If your California divorce mediation is not successful and you aren't able to reach an agreement, a judge will decide and make an order at a hearing, as per California Family Code Section 3170. In some courts, the judge may ask the mediator for an evaluation. Also, before deciding your case, the judge may request an evaluation by a mental health professional, and you could incur a fee for this.
This information should show you how seriously the court takes the welfare of children during divorce. I hope you will do the same, and give your best effort for a successful resolution during California divorce mediation. However, I don't want to leave you with the idea that mediation is only appropriate for couples with issues surrounding children.
Mediation is a great resource for any divorcing couple. Even if you don't have children, if you need some help reaching agreement on how you want to handle the division of your assets and debts, a qualified mediater can save you a lot of time and money that you might otherwise spend unnecessarily on attorney fees. And not only will you save time and money, you will also avoid the anguish and pain of unresolved emotional trauma when you participate in California divorce mediation.
You can learn more about California divorce and CalSupport child and spousal support calculation software at California Divorce Mediation.
Ed Sherman is the author of How to Do Your Own Divorce in California and the divorce expert attorney famous for founding Nolo Press and the self-help law movement. Since 1971, his books and software have saved divorcing couples BILLIONS of dollars in legal fees. He owns http://californiadivorceforms.org/your-ca-divorce, where he provides comprehensive advice and tips on how to get the best possible California divorce.