Custody Mediation in the Conciliation Court
What is the Conciliation Court?
The Conciliation Court is part of the Superior Court.
The staff of the Conciliation Court mediate disagreements between divorcing
and/or separating parents regarding the care of their children. Mediation
gives parent a chance to resolve disagreements with the help of a court
employee who is an expert is resolving these disagreements. If the
parents are able to work out an agreement, the mediator helps the parents
write a custody and visitation order.
Is Mediation Mandatory?
Yes, if there is a custody dispute, you must go to mediation.
The Family Code requires that if there is a contested issue regarding children,
the parties must first attempt to resolve their disputes through mediation
before the court makes orders in a litigated hearing. (Fam.Code,
§ 3170.) This is true for dissolution and paternity filings. Mediation
is often used in guardianship cases.
Although the law requires the parents to participate in
the mediation process, there is no requirement that they reach an agreement.
Do I Need an Appointment?
Yes, you need to set an appointment. State law (Fam.Code,
§ 3175) requires parties to schedule an appointment in Conciliation
Court prior to a hearing on any custody and visitation issue. Appointments
may be scheduled in the courthouse where the hearing will be held or in
any of the other Conciliation Court Offices in Los Angeles County. Often,
district offices may have a shorter waiting period than the central office
and may be geographically more convenient. Appointments may be scheduled
before the hearing date or on the same day. Separate sessions are
available for domestic violence cases upon request. Contact the Conciliation
Court to discuss appropriate arrangements. Also, contact the office to
discuss options for mediation of cases where parties reside out of state.
We will accommodate cases on the day of the hearing, when possible.
What Happens in Mediation?
When parties arrive at the Conciliation Court, they are asked
to complete and sign an information form (see
attached). The information form may be obtained and completed in
advance. The mediator will review this form to obtain basic information
on the family.
The first task of mediation is an orientation to the mediation
process. Parties are told the rules of mediation, what issues can
be addressed in Conciliation Court and their options. The mediator
may meet with the parties together and/or individually. Individual
sessions are always available in domestic violence cases. The mediator
will ask questions to develop an understanding of the family history.
The second task of mediation is when the mediator and parties
determine the issues needing to be resolved. When safe and
appropriate, the mediator will assist the parties to temporarily set aside
their adult disputes and focus on developing arrangements that are in the
best interests of their children.
The third task in mediation is to develop possible solutions.
The mediator will share information on the developmental needs of children,
research on children of divorce and explain options. In Conciliation
Court parties may address: legal custody, parenting plans, holiday
and vacation schedules, transportation and other areas that are specific
to the needs of the children.
In the final task of mediation, the parties will consider
the options and may resolve all, some or none of these issues.
Is Mediation Confidential?
In Los Angeles County mediation is confidential. Mediators
will not make reports to the court regarding the issues discussed in mediation
or make recommendation to the court as to plans for a family. The
mediator may only submit to the court agreements that are mutually acceptable
to both parents and signed by both parents. Mediators will inform the court
when a party does not appear for mediation, refuses mediation, if parties
cannot reach an agreement or if there are child abuse allegations being
investigated by the Department of Children and Family Services. Mediators
may recommend a child custody evaluation. The mediator may also recommend
that an attorney be appointed to represent the child. Mediators are mental
health professionals and therefore mandated reporters of suspected child
abuse. Suspected child abuse is reported to Children's Protective
Services. Mediators are also required to report if a party threatens to
harm him/herself or others.
Are Children Interviewed?
Children are not always interviewed. However, mediators
are trained to interview children. Mediators will interview
children if it may assist parents in developing parenting plans.
Often, feedback from children interviewed by a trained, neutral professional
greatly assists parents in developing appropriate parenting plans.
It is especially helpful to include teenagers in the mediation process.
Mediators never ask children with whom they want to live. (Parents should
never do that either.)
Do Attorneys Go to the Mediation
Attorneys may go to the mediation appointment but do not
have to. Attorney participation in mediation can be very helpful
in assisting parties to reach an appropriate parenting plan. If both
parties have attorneys, both attorneys must be present to participate in
the mediation process. Sometimes, attorneys arrange to be available to
their clients and the mediator by telephone. Parties are always advised
to bring copies of any agreement to their attorneys for review prior to
a pending court hearing or the 10 day cancellation date.
What Is Included in a Conciliation
A Conciliation Court Agreement is a detailed description
of when the children will be with each parent. Once the agreement
is signed by the parents and the mediator, it is signed by a judicial officer
and becomes a court order. Sometimes, parties may resolve all
their parenting issues in mediation; sometimes parties may only be able
to resolve a portion of their parenting plan. Parties are encouraged
to resolve as many issues as they believe are appropriate. Mediators
will only draft agreements that are acceptable to both parties. Mediators
will decline to draft an agreement that does not appear to be in the best
interests of the children.
Parties may return to mediation at a future date to discuss
unresolved issues or modify agreements.
What If I Change My Mind
about the Agreement?
Parents who reach an agreement in Conciliation Court are
encouraged to show the agreement to their attorneys. If a parent
changes his or her mind regarding the agreement after speaking with an
attorney, the agreement may be canceled. Cancellation requests must
be in writing and received by the Conciliation Court before the next court
hearing or within 10 days of signing of the agreement, whichever
occurs first. Parties may return to Conciliation Court to discuss
What If We Don't Reach
If parents are unable to resolve issues in the mediation
process, the mediator will notify the court that the parents participated
in the mediation process but that no agreement was reached. No other
information is given to the Court.
What If There Has Been Violence
between the Parents?
Separate sessions at separate times are provided upon request
if domestic violence has occurred. Also, mediators will initiate separate
sessions if there is an appearance of intimidation or threat. Attorneys
and paralegals are encouraged to call the Conciliation Court Office
in advance to arrange mediation appointments that best meet the safety
needs of their clients. Victims of domestic violence may wish to have an
advocate accompany them to their mediation appointment. (Fam.Code,
§ 3181.) [All Court mediators have received
training that meets the state standards: Domestic
Violence Training Standards for Court-Appointed Child Custody Evaluators.]
Who Are the Mediators?
The required qualifications for mediators is a masters degree
in a social science and 5 years experience working with families and children.
Our mediators are mental health professionals trained to serve as unbiased
third parties that assist litigants come to their own resolutions on custody
and visitation matters. Most mediators hold licenses in clinical
social work or marriage, family and child counseling. Currently, half of
our Senior Family Mediators speak Spanish.
Are There Professional Standards
Yes, the state has standards as to how mediation must be
conducted. To obtain a copy of the standards for mediators, contact
the Administrative Office of the Courts, Family Court Services, 455 Golden
Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA. (415) 865-4333 or go to the following
web site: Uniform
standards of practice for court-connected mediation of child custody and
visitation disputes (The
Administrative Office of the Courts Statewide Office of Family Court Services
website has a variety of other materials of interest as well, including
further standards for custody evaluations and supervised visitation.)
Where Is the Conciliation Court
The main office of the Conciliation Court is located in the
central courthouse at 111 N. Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles.
The Conciliation Court is on the second floor in room 241. Conciliation
Court mediation services are also provided in the following district Superior
||300 E. Olive Ave., Rm. 219
||200 W. Compton Blvd., Rm. 1003
||1040 W. Ave. J, Rm. 218
||415 W. Ocean, Rm. 503
||12720 Norwalk Blvd., Rm. 701
||300 E. Walnut, Rm. 100
||400 Civic Center Plaza, Rm. 110
||900 Third St., Rm. 4059
||1725 Main St., Rm. 225
|| 825 Maple St., Rm. 450
||6230 Sylmar Ave., Rm. 213
Scheduling procedures may differ in these districts, please
contact the offices directly to find out local procedures. Parties
may attend mediation in any of the districts regardless of where their
court hearing is calendared.
Is There a Charge for Conciliation
No, there is no charge for mediation services.