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What must be part of the child custody mediation process?

When a California couple ends a marriage, one of the major concerns they will face is how to deal with child custody. For situations where the parties might be able to come to an amicable agreement, mediation could be a wise alternative to litigation. It is important to understand the mediation process from the beginning. It is also advisable to have legal representation.

Mediators who act in connection with the court must adhere to the law. They will review the files and the intake form prior to beginning mediation. There will be an orientation or parent education that will inform the parents about the following: the disputed issues mediation will seek to settle and the potential outcomes; how the process works and the role of the mediator; circumstances under which the mediator will make specific recommendations; limits to confidentiality; who has access to information that is in the file; how the information from research and experience will be used to settle the case; and how the child's best interests will be served.

The mediator can interview the child at their discretion. The interested parties - including parents, grandparents, siblings and others - can be present or the mediator can interview the child alone. Professionals and agencies can be coordinated with the interview to limit the number of interviews needed. The mediator can help draw up a parenting plan with the interests of the child at the forefront.

If the mediator believes it is impossible to get the parties to have a fair discussion, the mediation can be terminated. The mediation will end with a parenting plan that serves as a summary of what the parents have agreed to or with a recommendation from the mediator.

Some parents can benefit from mediation. Understanding the rules and how the process works before and during the process is a vital part of a successful outcome. To use mediation in lieu of litigation, it is imperative to have a grasp of how it works. For advice and legal protection, discussing the case with a law firm experienced in divorce mediation can be beneficial.

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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