California Divorce and Child Custody: What is a Mediator?


by Steven Carlson - Date: 2007-01-19 - Word Count: 359 Share This!

A mediator in California can help parents involved in a contested child custody and visitation dispute resolve their disagreements in mediation without a litigated hearing. Mediation is a mandatory process in California that must take place before a contested issue regarding custody and visitation is heard in a litigated hearing as pointed out in Family Code 3170. Due to the high degree of conflict often associated with contested child custody and visitation disputes, mediators in California will have special training, qualifications, and experience and must adhere to certain guidelines and standards when conducting mediation.

Mediator and Domestic Violence

Mediators should have training in the field of domestic violence to help facilitate situations in which domestic violence is present. Family Code 3181 addresses the domestic violence training requirements for mediators. When domestic violence has occurred or if there is fear of intimidation by one party or the other, for safety purposes, the mediator will often meet with the parents separately. When domestic violence has taken place it is wise to inform the mediation office or the mediator prior to going into your appointment.

Mediator and Interviewing Children

Mediators are generally trained to interview children, but children are not always interviewed in mediation. Interviewing children may be at the mediator's discretion and should be consistent with the guidelines set forth in Family Code section 3180(a).

Mediator Qualifications

Mediators will typically have at least a Masters Degree and experience in the fields of psychology, marriage, family, and child counseling. Mediators will usually be trained on the developmental needs of children and how domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, separation, and divorce can have an effect on them.

Mediator Limitations

A mediator may not be able to help all parents work out their disputes. Some cases are too complex or far too acrimonious. When parents do not settle their issues in the mediation process, a mediator will notify the court that the parties participated but were unable to reach an agreement.

If you are involved in mediation you will want to consult an attorney in your area to help you learn about the mediation process, standards, purpose, your rights, and what mediators can and cannot do in mediation.

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