In the San Diego family court, whenever the issue of child custody and visitation is brought before the court, the parents are required to attend Family Court Services Mediation. This is an attempt to settle the case before it goes in front of the judge. Generally, the parties will meet with a mediator for about an hour and the mediator will encourage the parents to reach an agreement on custody and visitation. If the parents cannot agree then the mediator will issue a recommendation to the court. It is very important that FCS Mediation is taken seriously. Many family law judges rely heavily on the recommendations made by the mediator. Here are some tips from John Griffith, a divorce and family lawyer in Encinitas, California.
- Be prepared.
Family Court Services appointments usually last for about an hour. This means that you will have about 30 minutes to give your side of the story to the mediator. The need to be effective at communicating to the mediator which requires that you be prepared. The best way to be prepared is to have a plan going in. The Family Court Services Worksheet below will help you stay focused on what the mediator actually wants to hear. While you can’t give anything to the mediator when you go in, you are allowed to bring your own notes. Fill out the worksheet and use it as a guide when you go to your appointment.
- Focus on the children.
When child custody issues are before the court here is your mantra—“It’s all about the children all the time.” Stay focused on the children and what is best for them. Selfish motives are easily picked up on by the custody mediator and more importantly by the family court judge. If you want 50/50 custody of the children then tell the mediator why 50/50 custody is best for your children. Stay away from claiming that you want “equal time” or a “fair schedule.” Those terms are parent focused and not child focused.
- Acknowledge the other parent.
If you are in the middle of child custody litigation that means that there is another parent on the other side. Your children are his children too—whether you like it right now or not. Remember to acknowledge that your children need both parents in their lives—it’s true. Children do best when they have continuing and frequent contact with both of their parents. This is, in fact, the policy of the law when it comes to the custody of children California. Using terms like “our kids” instead of “my kids” will help you convey to the FCS mediator that you acknowledge and appreciate the importance of the other parent’s role.
- Don’t talk about money.
This relates to number 2. The purpose of FCS Mediation is to attempt to settle the issue of child custody and that’s it. You are not there to talk about child support or anything related to money. One of the biggest mistakes that I have seen client’s make is to start talking in percentages, “I have 25% and I want 35% custody.” Don’t do it. The second you start talking percentages, the mediator will think that your motive in changing the current co-parenting plan is because an increase or decrease in the timeshare percentage will change the child support amount. One of the most influential factors in guideline child support amounts is the timeshare percentage. The FCS mediator knows that and so does the judge. Stay focused on the children.
- Be open to coming to an agreement.
While the FCS mediator will issue a recommendation to the judge in the event that you do not come to an agreement, coming to an agreement is the best thing for you and your children. Try your best to listen to the other parent’s concerns and work hard to try and compromise with the other parent. Remember that if the case goes in front of the judge you are going to have someone else dictating how you parent your children. If at all possible keep the power in your hands and work with the other parent to come up with a mutually agreeable co-parenting plan—your children deserve it.
Are You Supposed to Attend a Family Court Services Mediation?
The divorce and family law attorneys at Griffith, Young & Lass are highly experienced in child custody cases. You can meet one of our family law attorneys in Carlsbad at our office or have a free 30-minute free consultation over the phone.
- What is the current schedule?
Is it working? Why or why not?
- What are you asking for?
Do you want the current schedule to remain in place? Why or why not? Are you asking for the current schedule to be modified?
- Why is the schedule that you are requesting best for your children?
School schedule, activities, age of children, work schedule, relationship with children……
- What is the other parent asking for?
- Why don’t you agree with the other parent’s request?
Be specific. Remember that it’s about what is best for the kids. Relate every example back to how it concerns your children.
- Address your concerns in detail. Make a list and bring it with you so that you don’t forget.
Give specific examples. Provide the mediator with third-party contact information.
- Address the other parent’s concerns in detail. Jot down a list at mediation while the other parent is stating his/her concerns.
- Remember to acknowledge that the best thing for your children is that both parents are involved as much as possible. You are at FCS to attempt to work with the other parent to come up with a co-parenting plan that is best for your children.