Preparing for custody mediation

In California, the law requires the parents to a child custody dispute participate in a court mandated custody mediation.  In this article, you will learn the steps you need to take to prepare for custody mediation in California family court.  We hope to give you practical advice on how to prepare for your child custody mediation.

What is custody mediation

Custody mediation is a process where parties try to negotiate a resolution to their dispute prior to the judge hearing the case. The law requires parents to participate in a custody mediation prior to the hearing. See Family Code 3170-3173 . The purpose is to encourage parents to resolve their child custody or visitation dispute through negotiation. Therefore, the law is encouraging you to resolve your family law dispute with minimal court involvement.

Who will be the child custody mediator

Custody mediator will be a neutral person whose job is to facilitate a discussion between the parents. Much of the time the court has certified mediators. Sometimes the mediators are former lawyers or current law students.  Remember, mediators are not judges. They cannot decide on anything. So, whether there is an agreement reached in mediation is a choice the parents have to make.

Can custody mediation help or hurt my case

Generally, everything that takes place during a custody mediation is confidential. In some counties, if the parents cannot agree to custody the mediator can make a custody recommendation to the judge. Additionally, the law requires that parents participate in good faith. However, there is no requirement that you agree to any custody arrangement in mediation. Therefore, it is important to participate in good-faith and be prepared to negotiate to make a success out of your custody mediation.

Preparing for child custody mediation

Below we will give you some practical advice on how to prepare for your child custody mediation.

Know your case!

It is important for you to know whether your custody case is weak or strong. This can help you determine how much leverage you have in mediation. Thus, know your case!

Create a custody or visitation proposal

In most cases even the none-custodial parent is entitled to reasonable visitation with his or her child. To prepare for custody mediation, get a calendar and mark on a calendar the days each parent will have custody or visitation. You can mark “M” for mother and “F” for father. Feel free to include when custodial/visitation time starts and ends. You can even say at what time each parent is entitled to a phone call or face-time with the child.

Create alternative proposals

Creating alternative custody or visitation proposals will help you negotiate a fair custody agreement. So do not just create one. Have different options in case the other parent cannot accommodate one of the proposals.

Do not be late

You will have certain amount of grace period in case of traffic or emergencies. Try not to be late to your custody mediation. Remember, in some counties the mediator may make a custody recommendation to the judge. So, do not be late to make sure you don’t end up on the bad side of the mediator.

Be polite

Custody mediations are supposed to be cooperative. Because in custody disputes emotions are high it can be hard to be polite. It is important for you to participate in good-faith. Being polite may show good-faith participation. If you do not participate in good-faith the judge can reschedule the hearing to require you to participate in good-faith.

Show flexibility but do not be pushed

Showing flexibility to a reasonable proposals in a custody mediation is important. Remember, the goal is to act in the best interest of your child. However, do not be pushed around by the other side. A good strategy for showing flexibility but remaining firm is to give a counter proposal. For instance, if the other parent gives a suggestion that you do not agree with then take that suggestion and modify it to your liking and give a counter proposal. This way, you are engaging in a flexible but firm negotiation.


Custody mediation in California is required. It is important to prepare for your custody mediation for you to make the most out of your mediation. Participate in good-faith and consider implementing the suggestions in this blog. Doing so can help you succeed in your custody mediation in family court.

Related Readings

Child Custody Modification

Child Custody Modification

In California, modifying a child custody order requires a proof of significant change in circumstances. However, like most rules in the legal field, this rule also comes with important exceptions. Here, I will discuss some of those exceptions. However, first I will discuss where the change in circumstances rule comes from and why it exists in child custody cases.

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Sabeti Law & Associates 

  • Family law attorneys in orange county 
  • Family law private mediation 

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