Mediation is required by the Santa Barbara Superior Court whenever there is a dispute about child custody or visitation. Mediation can help parents develop a detailed, custom co-parenting plan unique to each family while giving parents control over the lives of their children and themselves.
There Are 3 Purposes of Mediation:
1. To reduce conflict between parents.
2. To develop an agreement ensuring the child’s close and continuing contact with both parents.
3. To reach a settlement regarding visitation rights that are in the best interest of the child.
In Santa Barbara County, mediation is confidential. Details of the case cannot be discussed outside mediation. The court will only know what occurred at mediation is there is an agreement. There will not be any custody or parenting plan recommendations made outside of the session to attorneys or judges. Agreements, also called stipulations, are written during mediation for the parents’ review and signature, if there is an agreement. The written agreement is presented to the judge ONLY after both parties and any attorneys sign it. Otherwise, it remains confidential and cannot be discussed in court. To ensure confidentiality, only the parties involved in the case may attend the mediation session, unless a judge orders others to participate.
Participants of mediation include legal parents, guardians, children 6-18 years old, and a mediator. The mediator guides the negotiation with questions or comments, points out dynamics impeding smooth parenting, provides education and suggestions to assist parents with their parenting plan negotiation, keeps dialogue balanced and focused on the child, does not allow bullying or other behavior that impedes the process, does not give legal advice, write financial agreements, or take sides.
Family court services mediators have master’s degrees, and many are therapists as well. During mediation, children are interviewed by mediators but are not asked to pick a side. Children 14+ may choose to speak to the judge, but children of any age never have the legal right to choose which parent to live with or when to see their parents.
The mediation report tells the court: who attended or did not appear and if it was court-ordered, who completed the PEACE Class, the outcome of mediation, and it might list undecided issues or provide suggestions (rarely).
One important point about mediation, you do not have to make an agreement. The mediator may make recommendations to the parties, but if you do not agree that it is in the children’s best interest, simply do not agree and allow the judge to make a decision.
If you have a question about child custody or visitation, call Morales Law, P.C. at (805) 845-5405 for a free consultation.