Mediation with Family Court Services Versus a Private Mediator
If you file a family law case that includes child custody matters, it is essential to understand the difference between Family Court Services and private mediation. There are significant differences that can impact the outcome of your custody case.
Mediation through Family Court Services might be required. Also, the mediation could have substantial input in how your custody case is resolved.
What is Family Court Services?
Family Court Services (FCS) provides mediation services for parents. All parents who do not have a custody agreement are referred to FCS for mediation. Parents work to resolve disagreements related to parenting plans and time-sharing arrangements through mediation.
Parents are not required to reach an agreement through court-required mediation. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will hear the evidence from each parent and decide custody issues for the family.
Even though you are not required to reach an agreement through Family Court Services, you are required to attend the meeting. If there are allegations of domestic violence, there are procedures in place to protect the safety of all parties.
Alternate Ways to Resolve a Disputed Custody Matter?
There may be other ways to settle the custody dispute instead of going through mediation with the Family Court Services.
Some courts offer to hold a settlement conference to help parents work through their disputes before a trial. The parties meet with a judge, family law attorneys not involved with the case, or other neutral parties. They discuss potential settlements. This option may not be available in all areas.
The parties can work with their family law attorneys to work out a parenting plan so that they do not need mediation services. They may also agree to a collaborative law process where they both agree to settle the matters without going to court.
Lastly, the parties can hire a private mediator to help them resolve their dispute. Private mediation can be costly. However, there are advantages of hiring a private mediator for child custody disputes instead of using Family Court Services.
Why Should I Choose a Private Mediator for Child Custody Matters?
If you and your child’s other parent cannot resolve your disagreements regarding parenting responsibilities and time-sharing arrangements, a private mediator might be a good option.
One reason to use a private mediator is that your conversations and information remain confidential.
When you meet with a court provided mediator, mediation is not confidential when a recommendation regarding custody is made to the court. Your discussions with the mediator are only confidential if you file your case in a non-recommending county.
If the mediator makes a recommendation regarding custody, the judge and both parties receive a copy of the report. Anything you say during mediation could be included in the report. The judge can adopt the mediator’s recommendation if the parties do not agree on a parenting plan and time-sharing agreement.
Another reason to choose a private mediator is to speed up your case. You may have to wait longer for mediation through FCS than through a private mediator, which can increase the time it takes for your case to come to trial.
FCS limits the time parents have during mediation to work out an agreement. A private mediator is more flexible and can devote more time to work with the parents to resolve their custody disputes.
Private mediators get to know the parents and children, which can make mediation more productive. Private mediators also have more time and inclination to review material provided by the parents, such as information from teachers, physicians, other family members, and therapists. Having this additional information can help a mediator guide settlement discussions more effectively.
A benefit of using a private mediator is choosing your mediator. With FCS, you do not have a choice of who serves as your mediator. When choosing a private mediator, you can review the person’s education, experience, certifications, and specializations.
Do I Need a Lawyer During Custody Mediation?
You are not required to retain a lawyer for mediation through Family Court Services. However, a mediator’s recommendation can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. Therefore, it can be beneficial to have a lawyer counsel you regarding your legal rights and options.
Hiring a family law attorney may also help you resolve your disputes without mediation. Your attorney and the attorney for your child’s other parent can work to reach a settlement without mediation or a trial.
Reaching a settlement between the parties decreases expenses and saves time. It also can result in a parenting plan and time-sharing agreement that is better for you and your children.