What to Expect: Family Court Services Mediation
What is FCS mediation?FCS mediation is the Court's attempt to get parents to engage in co-parenting and reach agreements about child custody and visitation. Mediation can both help parents to learn to work together and can help to reduce the Court's case load.
The purpose of the mediation is for the parents to talk out custody and visitation issues, and compromise where possible. The mediator should remain neutral, and help the parents agree if at all possible. The mediator will be trying to determine what custody and visitation arrangements would be in the best interests of the child (or children).
Before FCS MediationBefore you go to mediation, do your research. Make sure you know the location, date, and time of mediation. Make sure you are familiar with the current court order (if there is one). If the child is of an age they can communicate their feelings and thoughts, call FCS well before the mediation, and ask if the mediator would like to interview the child.
If there is domestic violence between the parents, it may also be appropriate for the parents to meet with the mediator separately instead of together.
One of the best preparations you can make is preparing a list of definable ideas and alternatives to the current custody and visitation arrangement. All of these ideas should reflect what is in the child's best interest and logistical concerns like school and work schedules. Draft a proposed co-parenting plan, and a back-up plan, and another back-up plan. Finally, be prepared to set aside 2-3 hours for the mediation appointment.
At FCS MediationFirst, arrive 10-15 minutes early. While in the mediation session, keep the focus of the discussion on the children. There is often animosity between the parents, but do what you can to avoid name-calling, blaming, and mud-slinging. If it doesn't relate to the health, safety, and welfare of the child, don't bring it up. Your personal opinion of the other parent (and vice versa) often doesn't have much to do with what is in the child's best interest. If the other parent goes off topic, bring the discussion back to the children.
The whole point of mediation is to try and come to a complete custody and visitation agreement. You are under no obligation to agree to anything. You might agree with some parts of the proposed plan, and you might disagree with other parts. That is okay, as long as you reasons for disagreeing have to do with the child's best interests. Again, do not feel pressured or bullied into agreeing to a custody/visitation plan you do not agree with.
After FCS MediationThe FCS mediation results are not a court order. The Court has to adopt the FCS recommendations as a Court order before they are enforceable by the Court. Even if the parties reach a complete agreement at the FCS mediation, until a stipulation is submitted to the Court, it is not enforceable. Some jurisdictions (like San Diego) are reporting jurisdictions, where the FCS mediator will prepare a report for the Court summarizing the results of the mediation. FCS in other jurisdictions (like Los Angeles) do not report. In any case, until the Court makes orders about custody and visitation, the old orders are still in effect.
SummaryYou make not like the other parent, and they may not like you much, either. However, you both have to work together (to some degree) to parent your child. If both parents focus on the best interests of the child, no matter how much you may dislike each other, hopefully the child can still have a happy, healthy childhood.