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Settling child custody disputes through mediation

During or after a divorce, one of the most critical issues that separated parents in Los Angeles, California, have to deal with is creating a plan for parenting their child. It is difficult for many parents to spend all of their free time with their children and child custody and visitation plans are often highly contested. As a result, a large number of child custody and visitation cases in California and elsewhere in the U.S. are often decided by the judicial system.

To address this issue between parents, some courts in California set a mediation date for parents to meet a professional counselor. The counselor would recommend a parenting plan, which is mutually agreed upon by the parents. Once the parents reach consent, the court takes the recommendations into consideration and decides on the child custody and visitation plan accordingly.

It is important for a parent to take the mediation seriously because the courts regard the mediator's advice as very significant while deciding on child custody and visitation plans. However, if a parent seeking custody is prepared for the mediation process, the chances of obtaining a favorable decision increases considerably.

First and foremost, a parent seeking child custody should be well aware of the main concerns and what that parent wishes to gain from the parenting plan. Since extraneous documentation is not permitted at some of mediation sessions in California, it becomes important for a parent to be prepared for the discussion. One way of preparing could be a meeting with a professional counselor or a family law attorney, who can help a person prepare for court mediation.

Sometimes, discussing the issue with the other spouse prior to the mediation may also prove beneficial. By doing so, the separated parents can limit the chances of unnecessary conflicts during the mediation process. However, it is important to remember that court mediation is meant to serve the best interests of the child and; therefore, it is of the utmost importance to keep that child's best interests ahead of a couple's personal conflicts.

Source: Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: Preparing for Child Custody Mediation," Caroline Choi, May 22, 2014

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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