How Do I Prepare for Child Custody Mediation in California?

If you have children with someone and you are either getting divorced or you’re breaking up, you might be asking, “How do I prepare for child custody mediation in California?” There are two different routes that you can take to determine a parenting plan schedule for you and your co-parent.

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As an attorney and professional family mediator in California, I have extensive experience working with co-parents who are needing to figure out their parenting plan (or custody and visitation as the courts refer to it as). Your options are to either use a private mediator (which is what our mediators at West Coast Family Mediation are) or you are still required to do mandatory court-ordered child custody mediation through Family Court Services. Now the court-ordered mediation is very different from a private mediator because the “mediator” in that setting can make a recommendation to the judge if you and your co-parent don’t reach an agreement.  No matter which mediation route you go down though you are probably wondering, how do I prepare for child custody mediation in California?

Be Willing To Work With Your Co-Parent

When going into child custody mediation the only way that you and the other parent are going to be able to reach an agreement is if you are willing to work with the other parent.  This will mean that you’re going to have to compromise on certain items so it can be helpful to think about this in three ways:

  1. What is most important to your children?
  2. What is most important to you?
  3. What do you think is most important to the other parent?

The first one is going to be what guides the mediation itself, in that the consideration is always going to be what is in the best interests of the children. However, knowing what is most important to you and considering what might be most important to the other parent will help you figure out potential areas for compromise. It’s ok to have a couple of items that are so important to you that you don’t want to compromise – so long as you’re willing to budge on some areas that the other parent may want.

Admit Your Children Need Both Parents To Get Along

Whether you like your co-parent or not now doesn’t change that fact that your children need both of their parents, and they need them to get along. While this might not be easy decide to speak positively about the other parent when you’re around the children and when you’re not around them.

Now there may certainly be those times you are super frustrated with your co-parent and want to vent to your friends, but the more you can talk positively about them even when your children aren’t around the better it will be when they are around. Letting go of the negative feelings you may have about the other parent will help you to talk rationally during your child custody mediation and not focus on what is “bad” about the other parent. Additionally, agreeing in mediation to share decision-making with the other parents can go a long way towards you and your co-parent getting along. This means that both parents get to make decisions relating to schooling, family issues, activities etc.

Be Organized and Prepared

The last thing that can be helpful in knowing how do I prepare for child custody mediation in California is to be rested and organized before you go into mediation.

Being rested can help you keep your calm with the other parent when you’re meeting with the mediator and help you to keep negative emotions outside of the room. Being organized means that you have your paperwork and any copies that you need organized before mediation.

The mediator might not have time to look at everything in detail. If there is anything you do want them to see, then it’s better to come prepared in case they do have time to review them. This could include diaries, calendars, school records, police reports, psychological evaluations, and medical records. 

Additionally, in the days leading up to the custody mediation, it can be useful to write down what you want the parenting plan to look like. Note items that are most important to your children and to you. Bringing these ideas with you to your mediation shows that you’re prepared, and will help you make sure that you do not forget the items that you want to discuss.

Child Custody Mediation in California

If you are asking yourself, “How do I prepare for child custody mediation?” then contact West Coast Family Mediation Center today to discuss child custody mediation and ways to be best prepared for either your court ordered mediation or private mediation.

by: Amanda Singer, Esq., MDR, CDFA®

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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