“Why Am I Required to Go To Mediation For My Custody Case?”
The State of California requires mediation for a variety reasons any time custody or visitation at issue.
First, the court recognizes that while judges are quite capable of making decisions that are in the best interests of minor children and can and do set custody and visitation schedules, oftentimes the best schedule is one that is worked out carefully between the parties. Not all situations are high conflict, and many times a schedule can be worked out in mediation.
Second, the courts in California are extremely crowded because of budget cuts and lack of courtrooms and judges. Any case that can be resolved without a trial lightens the court’s load. Judge’s will generally give priority to anyone with a mediation agreement and move their case to the front of the line on the calendar.
Third, sometimes parties are able to come to a partial agreement which resolves some issues but leaves others for the court to decide. This allows the issues to be narrowed down to only those issues which the judge really needs to make decisions on.
Fourth, it provides a lower conflict place for parties to discuss concerns and thoughts prior to testifying in court. Sometimes parties simply have not done a good job explaining their reasoning behind what they are asking for and explanations and discussions help. Mediators have the training and education to bring out those reasons and try to help the parties understand the other one’s position. This can often lead to better long-term progress than a heated court hearing where both parties attempt to prove that they are the better parent.
Mediation cannot solve every custody problem, and it does require that both parties act reasonably and discuss the issues with an open mind. However, in many cases it allows the parties to control the schedule in a way that isn’t possible when a judge, who cannot know every detail of the schedule, is forced to make the decisions for the parties.