child custody is an issue in your litigation you will attend a Family Court Services
("FCS") mediation (scheduled by the court) if you are litigating
in California. This
mediation is exclusively dedicated to your child custody issues. This is the policy
in California—whether you are in a large city such as Los Angeles
and San Diego or even in a small town. It is critical that you are prepared
for your mediation. This includes talking to an experienced
family law attorney in advance of your mediation appointment.
There are many things a person may do prior to their FCS mediation which
will increase the chance of a successful mediation. Many individuals seek
the assistance of a lawyer after their mediation because they felt pressured
during the session into agreeing to a parenting plan that they are uncomfortable
with or because they failed to state something during the mediation that
was relevant. If an agreement is not reached, the mediator will make a
recommendation for a parenting plan and a designation of a primary custodian.
Although these recommendations are not rubber-stamped by the judge, they
are given heavy weight.
Obtaining an attorney prior to your mediation will help you prepare for
the session. Also, an attorney may prepare declarations and third party
statements. A lawyer will make sure these and other important documents
are properly filed, served and sent to the mediator in advance. The mediator
will not consider them if the proper procedure has not been met.
If you have attended a mediation which resulted in an agreement you are
not comfortable with or resulted in an unfavorable recommendation, do
not give up. It is always a judge who makes the order. You may obtain
an attorney to assist you in court, request a comprehensive custody evaluation,
prepare further declarations and or lodgments or even request an evidentiary
hearing so witnesses may be called—including the mediator. This
will dramatically increase your chances of obtaining a parenting plan
you are comfortable with.