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FAMILY CODE SECTION 3175-3188

3175. If a matter is set for mediation pursuant to this chapter,
the mediation shall be set before or concurrent with the setting of
the matter for hearing.

3176. (a) Notice of mediation and of any hearing to be held
pursuant to this chapter shall be given to the following persons:
(1) Where mediation is required to settle a contested issue of
custody or visitation, to each party and to each party’s counsel of
record.
(2) Where a stepparent or grandparent seeks visitation rights, to
the stepparent or grandparent seeking visitation rights, to each
parent of the child, and to each parent’s counsel of record.
(b) Notice shall be given by certified mail, return receipt
requested, postage prepaid, to the last known address.
(c) Notice of mediation pursuant to Section 3188 shall state that
all communications involving the mediator shall be kept confidential
between the mediator and the disputing parties.

3177. Mediation proceedings pursuant to this chapter shall be held
in private and shall be confidential. All communications, verbal or
written, from the parties to the mediator made in the proceeding are
official information within the meaning of Section 1040 of the
Evidence Code.

3178. An agreement reached by the parties as a result of mediation
shall be limited as follows:
(a) Where mediation is required to settle a contested issue of
custody or visitation, the agreement shall be limited to the
resolution of issues relating to parenting plans, custody,
visitation, or a combination of these issues.
(b) Where a stepparent or grandparent seeks visitation rights, the
agreement shall be limited to the resolution of issues relating to
visitation.

3179. A custody or visitation agreement reached as a result of
mediation may be modified at any time at the discretion of the court,
subject to Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 3020), Chapter 2
(commencing with Section 3040), Chapter 4 (commencing with Section
3080), and Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 3100).

3180. (a) In mediation proceedings pursuant to this chapter, the
mediator has the duty to assess the needs and interests of the child
involved in the controversy, and is entitled to interview the child
where the mediator considers the interview appropriate or necessary.
(b) The mediator shall use his or her best efforts to effect a
settlement of the custody or visitation dispute that is in the best
interest of the child, as provided in Section 3011.

3181. (a) In a proceeding in which mediation is required pursuant
to this chapter, where there has been a history of domestic violence
between the parties or where a protective order as defined in Section
6218 is in effect, at the request of the party alleging domestic
violence in a written declaration under penalty of perjury or
protected by the order, the mediator appointed pursuant to this
chapter shall meet with the parties separately and at separate times.
(b) Any intake form that an agency charged with providing family
court services requires the parties to complete before the
commencement of mediation shall state that, if a party alleging
domestic violence in a written declaration under penalty of perjury
or a party protected by a protective order so requests, the mediator
will meet with the parties separately and at separate times.

3182. (a) The mediator has authority to exclude counsel from
participation in the mediation proceedings pursuant to this chapter
if, in the mediator’s discretion, exclusion of counsel is appropriate
or necessary.
(b) The mediator has authority to exclude a domestic violence
support person from a mediation proceeding as provided in Section
6303.

3183. (a) Except as provided in Section 3188, the mediator may,
consistent with local court rules, submit a recommendation to the
court as to the custody of or visitation with the child, if the
mediator has first provided the parties and their attorneys,
including counsel for any minor children, with the recommendations in
writing in advance of the hearing. The court shall make an inquiry
at the hearing as to whether the parties and their attorneys have
received the recommendations in writing. If the mediator is
authorized to submit a recommendation to the court pursuant to this
subdivision, the mediation and recommendation process shall be
referred to as “child custody recommending counseling” and the
mediator shall be referred to as a “child custody recommending
counselor.” Mediators who make those recommendations are considered
mediators for purposes of Chapter 11 (commencing with Section 3160),
and shall be subject to all requirements for mediators for all
purposes under this code and the California Rules of Court. On and
after January 1, 2012, all court communications and information
regarding the child custody recommending counseling process shall
reflect the change in the name of the process and the name of the
providers.
(b) If the parties have not reached agreement as a result of the
mediation proceedings, the mediator may recommend to the court that
an investigation be conducted pursuant to Chapter 6 (commencing with
Section 3110) or that other services be offered to assist the parties
to effect a resolution of the controversy before a hearing on the
issues.
(c) In appropriate cases, the mediator may recommend that
restraining orders be issued, pending determination of the
controversy, to protect the well-being of the child involved in the
controversy.

3184. Except as provided in Section 3188, nothing in this chapter
prohibits the mediator from recommending to the court that counsel be
appointed, pursuant to Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 3150), to
represent the minor child. In making this recommendation, the
mediator shall inform the court of the reasons why it would be in the
best interest of the minor child to have counsel appointed.

3185. (a) If issues that may be resolved by agreement pursuant to
Section 3178 are not resolved by an agreement of all the parties who
participate in mediation, the mediator shall inform the court in
writing and the court shall set the matter for hearing on the
unresolved issues.
(b) Where a stepparent or grandparent requests visitation, each
natural or adoptive parent and the stepparent or grandparent shall be
given an opportunity to appear and be heard on the issue of
visitation.

3186. (a) An agreement reached by the parties as a result of
mediation shall be reported to counsel for the parties by the
mediator on the day set for mediation or as soon thereafter as
practical, but before the agreement is reported to the court.
(b) An agreement may not be confirmed or otherwise incorporated in
an order unless each party, in person or by counsel of record, has
affirmed and assented to the agreement in open court or by written
stipulation.
(c) An agreement may be confirmed or otherwise incorporated in an
order if a party fails to appear at a noticed hearing on the issue
involved in the agreement.

3188. (a) Any court selected by the Judicial Council under
subdivision (c) may voluntarily adopt a confidential mediation
program that provides for all of the following:
(1) The mediator may not make a recommendation as to custody or
visitation to anyone other than the disputing parties, except as
otherwise provided in this section.
(2) If total or partial agreement is reached in mediation, the
mediator may report this fact to the court. If both parties consent
in writing, where there is a partial agreement, the mediator may
report to the court a description of the issues still in dispute,
without specific reference to either party.
(3) In making the recommendation described in Section 3184, the
mediator may not inform the court of the reasons why it would be in
the best interest of the minor child to have counsel appointed.
(4) If the parties have not reached agreement as a result of the
initial mediation, this section does not prohibit the court from
requiring subsequent mediation that may result in a recommendation as
to custody or visitation with the child if the subsequent mediation
is conducted by a different mediator with no prior involvement with
the case or knowledge of any communications, as defined in Section
1040 of the Evidence Code, with respect to the initial mediation. The
court, however, shall inform the parties that the mediator will make
a recommendation to the court regarding custody or visitation in the
event that the parties cannot reach agreement on these issues.
(5) If an initial screening or intake process indicates that the
case involves serious safety risks to the child, such as domestic
violence, sexual abuse, or serious substance abuse, the mediator may
provide an initial emergency assessment service that includes a
recommendation to the court concerning temporary custody or
visitation orders in order to expeditiously address those safety
issues.
(b) This section shall become operative upon the appropriation of
funds in the annual Budget Act sufficient to implement this section.
(c) This section shall apply only in four or more superior courts
selected by the Judicial Council that currently allow a mediator to
make custody recommendations to the court and have more than 1,000
family law case filings per year. The Judicial Council may also make
this section applicable to additional superior courts that have fewer
than 1,000 family law case filings per year.