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Child Custody Mediation
Mediation is a confidential process conducted by specially trained court mediators who assist parents by facilitating a cooperative, confidential dialogue on the appropriate needs of their children. It is the task of the mediator to create a safe, neutral setting in which parents may discuss and resolve parenting issues.
Court mediators are skilled professionals with continued education training requirements that include: domestic violence and its effects on children; substance abuse; child sexual abuse; family dynamics; the effects of divorce and separation on children; and the developmental needs of children.
How does child custody mediation work?
Court mediators understand that parents know their children best and want to do what is best for them. The mediator listens carefully to the parents' concerns and ideas, and encourages them to listen to one another with an open mind. The goal is to encourage cooperation and develop a parenting plan that both reflects the developmental needs of their children and enhances the quality of their lives.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan, sometimes calls a Custody and Visitation Agreement, is a legal document that specifies custody and visitation arrangements. It establishes consistent times for the child to be with each parent on a day-to-day basis, on holidays and on vacations. The plan must be in writing and signed by both parents and their attorneys. The court will usually approve plans that have been agreed to by all concerned parties. Once the court signs the parenting plan it becomes an enforceable court order.
What are some options for a parenting plan?
Options may differ, depending on individual circumstances and the age of the children. Age appropriate examples of timeshares can be found within the Mediation Orientation Packet online or within the Online Mediation Orientation class.
Questions to consider when creating a parenting plan include:
- Where will the children go to school?
- What kind of daycare do the children need?
- Who will be the children's primary medical and dental care providers?
- How will information about the children be shared?
- Do both parents have the right to call the children when they are in the care of the other?
The California Courts website has a helpful educational module regarding drafting a parenting plan. The link to the draft is below. It is most effective if you complete the module from the beginning. You can print out your draft agreement and bring it with you to your mediation appointment.
Do court mediators provide legal advice?
Court mediators can answer questions about the court process, but they are not attorneys and cannot advise anyone regarding legal practices or procedures.
How do I schedule a mediation appointment?
You must have a Family Law case number to schedule a mediation appointment. In addition, parents must have a pending court hearing regarding a child custody or visitation dispute. Appointments may be requested online, by telephone at (530) 822-3305, or in person at the Sutter County Superior Court, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Prior to your scheduled mediation appointment, both parties must complete Mediation Orientation, which is an online program found on the Sutter Court website under the Family Law drop down menu.
Will the court consider what my children want when it makes a decision about their custody and visitation?
The first concern of the court will always be the best interest of the child. Normally, a young person cannot choose where they will live until they are 18 years of age. If the parents ask the court to decide where the child will live, the judge may consider the child's wishes as one factor in making his/her order.
Legal Terms Related to Custody and Visitation
- Legal Custody: The rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of their children.
- Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
- Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
- Physical Custody: How much time the children spend with each parent; where the children live; how day-to-day responsibilities are fulfilled.
- Joint Physical Custody: Children spend a significant amount of time with each parent.
- Sole Physical Custody: Children reside primarily with one parent and have visitation with the other parent.
- Visitation: Times when one parent has the children and is fully responsible for them.
- Supervised Visitation: Visitation is limited to special situations in which a third party, specified by the court, is present. Supervised, monitored visitation may occur when there is a need to protect children because of drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, family violence, or other serious problems, or when children are getting to know an absent parent.