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child custody mediation
Child Custody Mediation is provided free of charge and is an opportunity to resolve custody, time-share and other parenting issues without a court hearing. It does not include financial or property issues.

ORIENTATION CLASSES

Mediation Orientation is a class designed to teach parents about children’s developmental stages and how they impact parenting plans. Time is also spent discussing conflict resolution, effective methods to “co-parent,” and Lake County Superior Court’s model for child custody mediation. Parents do not have to register for the class, unless the custody case is part of a domestic violence dispute or unless there is a current restraining order.

See below for dates, times and location of the parent orientation class.
 
 

MEDIATION ORIENTATION CLASS SCHEDULE

Dates: Tuesdays
Time: 10:30 am to noon
Location: Conference Room C, Lakeport Courthouse, 3rd Floor
Key contact person: Dr. Katherine Andre
 

MEDIATION AND ITS PURPOSE

Child Custody Mediation is a form of negotiation between parents who are parties in a disputed court action.  It is done with the help of a professional mediator who is trained to assist the parents in reaching an agreement.  In Lake County, mediation is confidential and mediator’s do not make recommendations to the court following mediation.

Referral to Family Court Services mediation is by court referral only.  Family Code Section 3170 mandates that disputed child custody and visitation cases must be set for mediation prior to a court hearing.  The purpose is to:

  1.  Help reduce the hostility that may exist between the parties;
  2. Develop an agreement that assures the child(ren) frequent and continuing contact with both parents and that assures the health, safety, and welfare of the child(ren); and
  3. Achieve a resolution of the issues of custody and rights to parenting time that is in the best interest of the child(ren).

MEDIATION ORIENTATION

Rule 5.210 of the California Rules of Court requires that the court provide an orientation for parents.  The purpose of the orientation is to inform parents about the mediation process in a confidential or non-recommending county, which is what Lake County is.  It also informs parents about the roll of the mediator, the developmental needs of children, limitations on confidentiality, and other child custody issues.  The Lake County Superior Court complies with this requirement by offering a parent orientation class.   Both parties should complete the class prior to participation in their mediation session.  This is no fee for this class.  It is very important that each parent make every effort to complete this class.  Although only parents who are named in the court action are allowed to attend mediation sessions, step-parents and other interested parties such as grandparents and close friends are invited to attend the Mediation Orientation Class.  If a parent lives out of state, or away from the local area, please contact the Family Court Services for an alternative Orientation class.


HOW THE PROCESS WORKS

When a parent is referred to Family Court Services Mediation, he/she will be asked to do four things:

  1. Complete a two-page CONFIDENTIAL written intake form;
  2. Attend mediation Orientation class;
  3. Attend a mediation session either separately or together; and
  4. Return to court to inform the court of the results of the mediation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do children attend orientation?

Children should not attend orientation. This class is for the parents only.

What if a parent can't complete the parent orientation class?

If this occurs, it is important that the parent still appear at the return to court date. However, parents should be prepared to provide an explanation to the judge why the orientation class was not completed.

When does mediation occur?

Generally, mediation sessions occur within a two week time period of the scheduled return to court date on disputed custody and visitation issues. Prior to the mediation appointment, the parties take a Mediation Orientation Class as preparation for the mediation process.

Who conducts the mediation?

The Court employs or contracts with experienced counselors who have graduate degrees and specialized training in areas pertaining to children and families. These areas include, but are not limited to, conflict resolution, parenting techniques, children's developmental stages, domestic violence, substance abuse, and child abuse and neglect. Mediators must meet the minimum standard requirements set by the Administrative Office of the Courts under Family Code 3164 and CRC 5.210.

Do parents attend a mediation session together?

Yes. Mediators usually prefer both parents attend together. The exception to this policy is if there has been an alleged history of domestic violence or when there is a protective order in effect and one parent has requested separate interviews (Family Code 3181).

Do parents attend a mediation session together?

If there has been a history of domestic violence or if there is a restraining order in place, the parents are entitled to separate mediation sessions. Either parent may request information about parking areas and separate waiting rooms. Parents are to inform their mediator prior to the setting of the mediation appointment, preferably when they fill out the INTAKE. This will allow staff the ability to set separate appointments and maintain confidential addresses. Additional information is available from Family Code Section 3044.

What if parents reach a full agreement during mediation?

In most cases, parents can successfully resolve conflicts and agree on a custody and parenting plan. In such cases, the mediator will prepare a written agreement for the parents to sign called a Mediation Parenting Plan. The original will be entered into the court file. At the return to court date, parents will affirm their agreement to their judicial officer.

What if the parents can't reach an agreement?

Judges prefer that parents develop their own parenting plan, but If they are unable to reach agreement, all unresolved issues will be addressed before their judge at the next hearing and the judge will determine the plan.

Does the mediator make recommendations?

Generally no, as Lake Superior Court is a confidential, non-recommending Court. However, in certain cases the mediator can recommend that an attorney be appointed to represent the child(ren) (Family Code 3150) and/or that the parents/parties be referred for a child custody evaluation (Family Code 3183).

What if parents miss their mediation appointment?

Because of the short time frame between the mediation session appointment and the return to court date, another appointment usually cannot be scheduled. Requests to reschedule mediation appointments should be addressed to the assigned mediator who may or may not be able to accommodate the request. If one or both parents fail to attend the mediation orientation or mediation session, the Court will be notified. If this occurs, it is important that both parents still appear at Court on the date scheduled to return to court. However, the parent(s) should be prepared to provide an explanation to the judge if unable to attend any part of mediation.

Can a parent talk to the mediator before the mediation appointment?

"Ex parte contact" is not allowed by parents or attorneys at any time prior to the mediation session. There is time during class for questions to be answered. Ex parte contact means one party/parent (or attorney) contacting the mediator without the other party/parent being present or having knowledge of the nature of the discussion.

Can a parent bring a support person to mediation if there is a restraining order?

Yes. A support person may accompany the parent to the mediation appointment. However, the support person cannot participate in the session, and is required to maintain confidentiality of the mediation session.
A mediator may exclude a support person from a session if:

  1. The support person attempts to participate in the session;
  2. The support person acts as an advocate for the victim in a session;
  3. The support person's presence or actions disrupt the session.

What if the mediator has a conflict of interest?

Mediation of cases that involve relatives, friends, previous patients or co-workers of the mediator may present a conflict of interest. It is the policy of the Court to avoid conflicts or the appearance of a conflict of interest. Therefore, in these cases, parties may be referred to a different mediator unless both parties agree to waive any objection.
If parties agree to waive the conflict of interest objection, the mediator will mediate. A mediator will not handle a case in which it is perceived that a serious conflict of interest exists.

What if the parents are Spanish-speaking?

Family Court Services has a bi-lingual mediator available for Spanish-speaking parents. Parents will be referred at the time that the Intake is completed.

Is there a helpful resource for families about divorce and separation that would help prepare for mediation?

Yes, the AOC’s Center for Families, Children, & the Courts developed two sites to provide useful information: www.familieschange.ca.gov and www.changeville.ca.gov.



Contact Us

Dr. Katherine Andre
Family Court Services
255 North Forbes Street
Lakeport, CA 95453

(707) 263-2374

© 2014 Superior Court of Lake County