What to Expect from Child Custody Mediation in LA
Child custody mediation is a mandatory process required before attending any scheduled hearing on child custody and visitation. Mandatory mediation may seem like an annoyance or even a burden, but the process is intended to prevent hardship rather than cause it. In many cases, parties wind up benefiting from mediation, and may even avoid unnecessary lengthy, expensive, and acrimonious court battles because of it.
What is Child Custody Mediation?
Mediation is a process that occurs outside of a court room, before an issue is litigated (or brought before the court). The mediation process is intended to help divorcing couples formulate a joint parenting plan and come to certain agreements about custody and visitation, as well as other issues related to co-parenting. It involves both parties giving their side of a given conflict, and negotiation to try to come to a mutual understanding.
This process is facilitated by a mediator, an impartial third-party who is trained in conflict resolution and is knowledgeable about child custody and visitation laws. They are required by law to be impartial and competent, and to maintain an “overriding concern” for the best interests of the child. They are also required to control the session in order to “balance” the powers of the two parties, and not have one party dominate or overpower the other.
Both parties are usually allowed to have their attorneys present for the mediation, though mediators do have the right to tell attorneys to leave at any time during the process.
Ideally, by the end of the process, both parties and the mediator will have come to mutually agreeable solution to their co-parenting issues. This is referred to as a “parenting plan.” The mediator may privately interview both parties as well as the child or children involved in order to inform the final parenting plan.
If the parties are unable to agree, the mediator will produce their own recommended parenting plan, and the case will proceed to litigation before the court. The mediator will make their recommendations based on their observations during the mediation and any other information they have about the case.
If there is a history of domestic violence, the parties will not be forced into mediation, and other resources will be made available to them. Often, this will include a mediator meeting with both parties separately, without the parties having to have contact with one another.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan establishes the plan for co-parenting moving forward. Ideally, parents are free to formulate any mutually agreed-upon parenting plan that they would like (subject to court approval). Mediation is intended to develop and solidify a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan.
Parenting plans include:
- Legal Custody: This is the designation of who holds legal custody of the children. Parents with legal custody have the right to make the typical decisions a parent makes for a child: that is, decisions about their child’s health, safety, schooling, medical care, and other aspects of their child’s life. Usually, parents opt for “joint legal custody.” This means that both parents have a say in these decisions.
- Standard Parenting Time Schedule: Parenting plans usually lay out which specific days and times the children will be in the physical custody of either parent, during a regular week and/or weekend.
- Holiday and Vacation Parenting Time Schedule: This part of the plan lays out who will retain physical custody of the children during holidays, vacations, and any other time the standard parenting time schedule does not apply. This may include religious holidays and/or school vacations.
- Factual Background and Discussion: Since parenting plans are submitted as suggestions endorsed by the mediator to the judge, most include a section where the mediator explains the context of the case, both sides of various disagreements, and points of agreement. If both parties entirely agree on the parenting plan, this section will reflect that. If they disagree and the mediator believes one or the other party’s wishes on a topic of disagreement should be granted by the court, they will say so here as well.
If you are facing the child custody mediation process, you don’t have to do it alone. Having an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side can make all the difference in the world. In LA, that attorney is Tony Morrow. Attorney Morrow has helped many people just like you through the process of child custody mediation and child custody and divorce cases in general. Let him be your advocate and your guide. Call (337) 240-6697 for a free, personalized consultation today.
Here are three tips to alleviate the stress of shared custody over the holidays.
Read Your Custody Order
The solution to many of the issues that arise over the holidays can be found in your custody order. Many arguments are started because either one parent or both parents did not read their custody order. A well-prepared custody order by an experienced family law attorney will spell out who has custody on the specific holiday and when custody exchanges should occur.
That is where tip #2 comes in…
Communicate Your Plans
Do you know whether you will be traveling over the holiday? Could this trip possibly interfere with the other parent’s custody time? Don’t leave the other parent in the dark until the last minute! Give the other parent a heads up. Parents who leave each other in the dark unnecessarily cause huge ordeals when someone is running late.
And that brings us to our last tip…
What Goes Around Comes Around
What inevitably happens when sharing custody over the holidays is one parent asks for an extra hour or maybe even a day with the kids. Either they are traveling to see family across the country or they have a special trip planned over the holiday break. I always remind the client that if you tell your ex “no” to extra time this Christmas, what do you think is going to happen next year when you ask for an extra hour or day over Thanksgiving? Remember, often times the extra time being requested is to benefit your children. Depriving them of a vacation or visiting family just so you get a “win” over the other parent is not in your children’s best interests and certainly is not in the holiday spirit.
Here at the Law Offices of Tony Morrow, we understand the ins and outs of family law. If you find yourself in need of an attorney, please give us a call to schedule a consultation. (337) 240-6697