Family law matters often involve intense emotions and complex issues that require resolution through a legal process. To promote amicable settlements and reduce the burden on the court system, California has a requirement for parties to attend mediation before a hearing in family law cases. This blog post goes into the specifics of this requirement and discusses the distinction between reporting and non-reporting counties.
Understanding Mediation in California Family Law
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party, known as a mediator, assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. This process provides an opportunity for individuals involved in family law disputes, such as divorce, child custody and child visitation, to resolve their differences and come to a mutual agreement without going to court.
California law mandates that parties involved in a family law dispute must attempt mediation before a hearing. More specifically, under California Family Code section 3170(a)(1), when issues regarding temporary or permanent custody or visitation are contested, meaning the parties disagree, those issues are set for mediation by the court. This requirement aims to encourage open communication, facilitate compromise, and promote agreements that are in the best interest of the parties involved, especially the children.
Mediation can be a valuable tool for resolving conflicts, as it allows both parties to actively participate with one another in the decision-making process, rather than leaving the final judgment solely up to a judge. Mediation provides a space for the parties to discuss their individual concerns, explore options, and work towards mutually agreeable solutions.
In California, some counties have adopted a reporting model for mandatory mediation. These are known as reporting or recommending counties. In reporting counties, following the mediation session, the mediator submits a report to the court regarding the outcome of the mediation session. This report may include details about the areas of agreement, any remaining issues, and recommendations for further proceedings. The judge will review the report and consider it when making a final decision in the case.
The reporting requirement serves to inform the court of the progress made during mediation and helps streamline the judicial process. It ensures that the court is aware of the efforts made by the parties to resolve their dispute.
In Southern California, reporting counties include San Diego County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.
Conversely, non-reporting counties or non-recommending counties do not require the mediator to submit a formal report to the court. Instead, the mediator's role is limited to assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. In non-reporting counties, the responsibility for resolving the dispute primarily rests with the parties involved in the mediation, rather than relying on a mediator's report.
In Southern California, non-reporting counties include Orange County and Los Angeles County.
Benefits of Required Mediation
Whether a party attends mediation in a reporting or a non-repotting county, the requirement for mediation before a hearing in California family law cases offers several benefits:
Encourages Communication: Mediation provides a structured and safe environment for parties to express their concerns, clarify misunderstandings, and engage in constructive dialogue.
Promotes Cooperation: By encouraging cooperative problem-solving, mediation can help establish a foundation for a healthier long-term relationship between the parties as co-parents.
Saves Time and Money: Resolving conflicts through mediation is often faster and less costly than a prolonged court battle, which can be both emotionally and financially draining.
Empowers the Parties: Mediation empowers the parties involved to actively participate in crafting their own agreements, rather than having decisions imposed upon them by a judge.
Required mediation before a hearing in California family law cases serves as a valuable tool for promoting amicable resolutions and reducing the burden on the court system. Whether in reporting or non-reporting counties, mediation offers an opportunity for parties to work together to reach mutually acceptable agreements. By embracing mediation, parties can navigate family law disputes with greater control, cooperation, and the potential for more satisfying outcomes.
Harris & McKeown’s team of Certified Family Law Specialists have been assisting clients throughout Southern California with their disputes for over 10 years, including providing assistance with mediation in reporting and non-reporting counties alike.
If you are currently in the midst of a family law dispute and/or family law mediation and would like to discuss your options in a confidential consultation with a Certified Family Law Specialist, schedule an appointment online or by calling (949) 297-6529.
THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.
EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT AND THIS GUIDE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS
LEGAL ADVICE. THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY CLIENT
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE READER AND ITS AUTHOR. IF YOU HAVE LEGAL QUESTIONS, CONSULT WITH A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY.