Family Code section 3170 requires that parties to a child custody or visitation dispute attend mediation first. In San Diego County, we call this Family Court Services mediation. This process has different names in other counties. For example, in Riverside County, this is referred to Child Custody Recommending Counseling.
San Diego County is referred to as a “recommending county.” If the mediation process does not result in an agreement on custody and visitation, the Family Court Services mediation counselor will issue a report to the Court that includes a written recommendation. The judge does not have to adopt the recommendation of the counselor, but they do so more often than not. Counselors in some counties, like Orange County, do not issue recommendations if the parties do not agree on a custody and visitation plan. If the mediation does result in an agreement, then the parties must simply litigate the matter.
As San Diego County is a “recommending county,” parties should not take mediation lightly. A poor showing could result in an unfavorable recommendation which could result in an unfavorable custody/visitation order. Here are some simple things to remember before mediation begins:
Come in with a Plan
If you want to have 50/50 custody, don’t simply walk into mediation and say “I want 50/50” and nothing more. You should have a specific plan in mind. For example, you might suggest a 5-2-2-5 plan, or a week on/week off plan. If you have unusual hours that require you to work into the evening, it may be difficult for you to have visitation with your young children during the week. This augers in favor of having more time with your children on the weekends. These are important things to think about before you walk in the door to do the mediation.
Be Respectful and Focus on Your Children
If you interrupt frequently or otherwise act in a disrespectful manner, that reflects on you and that reflects on your fitness as a parent. If you start talking about financial issues or how your child support is too much or too little, it shows that you are not focused on your children. Don’t make these simple mistakes.
Dress the Part
Don’t show up in shorts and an undershirt. Look professional. You want the mediator to take you seriously.
Seek Help from an Expert
There are many retired family court services mediators or active private custody mediators in San Diego County that can prepare you for Family Court Services. It may benefit you and your children to seek one.
If you anticipate a legal child custody battle as a result of a divorce, it is important to know that a lawyer can help you understand the process accurately.
Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.