San Diego Mediation: Mediation with Family Court Services Versus a Private Mediator

Hossein Berenji, Feb 08, 2021

If you have a child custody or parenting time dispute and have been ordered to mediation, you may want to know about mediation with Family Court Services versus a private mediator.  Our experienced family law attorneys at Berenji & Associates Divorce Lawyers have put together this guide to give you information about mediation in San Diego child custody and visitation disputes.

What is Mediation and Why Do I Need It?

When you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on a child custody arrangement or parenting plan, you must first go to mediation to try to reach an agreement. Mediation is an informal process in which a mediator helps two parties try to reach an agreement in a dispute.

In most cases, California law requires parents with child custody disputes to use mediation before the court will hold a trial. Among the many benefits to mediation is that parties feel more involved in the process and they get to help come up with the resolution.

While it is not always possible to reach an agreement in mediation, with litigation, the judge makes the decision and neither party gets input. Both may be dissatisfied with the outcome of a trial.

You are allowed to have an attorney attend mediation with you. If at any time during the mediation, you have questions about your legal rights, you can ask to pause the mediation for a private discussion with your attorney.

If an agreement is reached during a mediation, the agreement will be put into writing. With a written agreement in place, the parties can ask the court to make it a formal court order.

Mediation is not required in cases involving child molest, child neglect, or child abuse. In those cases, the court can make emergency temporary orders until a trial can be held.

Why Choose Mediation with Family Court Services?

Your attorney may have a personal preference for or against mediating with Family Court Services. Most likely, however, a skilled attorney has the ability to adjust to any mediation environment. There are certainly some benefits if you choose mediation with Family Court Services.

You do not have to pay out-of-pocket for mediators from Family Court Services. Instead, the cost of mediation services is included in the filing fee for your paperwork.

California court rules govern the qualifications of mediators with Family Court Services. Mediators usually have a graduate degree and extensive knowledge of the family court system. They also keep their education current with mandatory annual learning requirements related to child custody and visitation.

One drawback of Family Court Services mediation is that only one session is available. There may not be enough time in a single session to resolve protracted or intense disputes.

Another drawback is the time it takes to get a mediation date. Family courts are busy places and court services are always stretched. It can take up to 60+ days after filing to get a mediation date with Family Court Services.

In some cases, the additional time may be useful to have informal discussions or prepare. In other cases, that delay can increase stress and conflict as the dispute continues to linger unresolved.

What are the Benefits of a Private Mediator?

One benefit offered by a private mediation is the ability to tailor it to your personal needs.

If you need more than one session to bring out all of the facts and positions, a private mediator can schedule them at your convenience. This can allow more time for parties to consider the issue from the other side’s perspective.

Parents may also wish to negotiate child custody disputes in light of other issues. In private mediation, the process is not constrained to only child custody and visitation issues.

One potential obstacle to private mediation is the cost. Experienced private mediators have valuable skills. Parents will have to pay for these services.