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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.)
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Do Attorneys Go to the Mediation Appointment?

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.
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What Is Included in a Conciliation Court Agreement?

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.

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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 other options.
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What If We Don't Reach an Agreement?

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.
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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.]
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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.
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Are There Professional Standards for Mediators?

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.)
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Where Is the Conciliation Court Located?

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 Court locations:
Burbank 300 E. Olive Ave., Rm. 219
Compton 200 W. Compton Blvd., Rm. 1003
Lancaster 1040 W. Ave. J, Rm. 218
Long Beach 415 W. Ocean, Rm. 503
Norwalk 12720 Norwalk Blvd., Rm. 701
Pasadena 300 E. Walnut, Rm. 100
Pomona 400 Civic Center Plaza, Rm. 110
San Fernando 900 Third St., Rm. 4059
Santa Monica  1725 Main St., Rm. 225
Torrance  825 Maple St., Rm. 450
Van Nuys 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.

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Is There a Charge for Conciliation Court?

No, there is no charge for mediation services.
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