If you are involved in a divorce and neither party can come up with a custody and visitation plan, they often file a Request for Order with the court to see the judge. They hope a judge will decide what’s best parenting plan for their children or in some cases hope the judge decides on their side. If you are hoping for any of these results, you are in need of a rude awakening. You have to understand taht the California Family Code states that custody and visitation plans are made with the goal of achieving “the best interest of the children” not in the best interest of the parent. Who knows your children better than you? Certainly not a strange person like a judge, so why would you want a judge to decide what’s best for your children? However, there are some situations that require seeing a judge; but this post will focus on three things you should remember before walking into your Custody Mediation appointment.
Custody Mediation is basically a meeting with mediator. At that meeting parents express their concerns, reasons for their request, and why they can’t reach an agreement. The mediator recommends a visitation and custody plan for the parties that fits the best interest of the children. California Family Code 3170 makes mediation mandatory when filing for a modification of your custody or visitation plan. Many parents walk into mediation with the wrong idea. We recommend the following Child Custody Mediation tips to remember before you walk into your mediation appointment.
- You both love your children – The mere fact that a parent is present at mediation shows that he or she cares about the children. Perhaps in some cases, the parent is present because it could affect child support. Avoid thinking that way. You should go in the meeting with the idea that you and your spouse still love your children. If you walk in the room with the goal of bad mouthing the other parent, it may have more of a negative impact than a positive one with the mediator. Conflict between parents in front of the children can cause children to have more emotional and behavioral school problems than sheltering from your fights. If you both love your children you wouldn’t want to hurt them.
- Your children love both of you – Perhaps you are at the beginning stages of your divorce or parentage case, it is common to feel afraid that if you get less time than the other parent that your children will love the other parent more. Your children may not understand why you are separating or why their family is breaking apart. Your children are trying to adjust. They may think that they need to pick a side, and they are not matured enough to make these types of decisions. You may think your children are choosing you; but it doesn’t mean they don’t love the other parent either. Don’t hurt your children by saying mean or false things about their other parent. You may think that your children will probably never learn of the things you said in mediation; but that’s not necessarily true.
- “I don’t agree with the mediator’s recommendation so I’ll take my chances with the Judge” – This is risky. It just makes you sound selfish. However, there are situations where the mediator doesn’t listen or believe all of either party’s concerns and makes a recommendation for custody and visitation that doesn’t fit the best interest of your children. This is understandable; but if both parents can’t make a parenting plan, and you or both of you can’t agree with the mediator’s recommendation, you’ll have to face the judge. Judges will make the final decision on whether to grant your request or deny it. Judges often follow the recommendation of the mediator. If you are requesting a modification of your current visitation plan, and the judge denies it, you just lost time and money.
There are situations where the above tips won’t work no matter how much you want them to work. These situations may involve cases of domestic violence, child abuse or just complete lack of cooperation from the other parent. There may be other situations; but in these circumstances, you’ll have to understand the California Family Law Code in order to handle your case. It is best to retain a Family Law attorney that can help you obtain a visitation plan that protects your children from harm or abuse.
In most cases, follow these tips. You’ll be seen by the mediator as a parent who is concerned about his children’s interest and not about your interest.