Some of the most contentious disputes in a divorce proceeding involve child custody and visitation matters. In most cases, both parents want to spend as much time with their children as possible after the divorce. In an ideal world of divorce, both parents would agree to what is best for the children, and would pleasantly allocate custody and visitation rights. But in a large percentage of family law proceedings, this is not the typical course. If you or someone you know is confronting a child custody dispute, it is vitally important to contact a local family law attorney who can help to preserve and protect your family’s best interests throughout the difficult process.
Fortunately, the San Diego courts (and other family law courts throughout California) require mandatory mediation in all child custody and visitation cases. This means that the parties must attend mandatory mediation before the court will make any custody and visitation orders. There are exceptions for emergency circumstances, such as neglect, abuse, flight and other very limited factors that do not occur in most divorce or legal separation cases. Mediation has become a fairly popular and effective way to resolve many kinds of disputes, in a less litigious and antagonistic manner. For child custody issues, the goals of mediation include the following: 1) to assist families in developing a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children; 2) to help parents create a plan that allows the children to spend time with both parents; and 3) to help families learn to cope with any resentment or anger.
With these goals in mind, mediation is a unique tool that can give parents an opportunity to resolve disagreements about a parenting plan (or child custody and visitation arrangement) for their children. In a mediation proceeding, an expert (a mediator) assists the parents in resolving their disagreements. If the parents are able to work out a mutually agreeable solution, the mediator then works with the parents to prepare a parenting plan for a judge’s approval. If the judge accepts and signs the plan, then it will become an enforceable custody and visitation order.
In San Diego county courts, Family Court Services (“FCS”) provides child custody recommending counseling in family law cases. Here, the mediator is called the “child custody recommending counselor.” In situations where the parents are unable to agree to a parenting plan, the counselor will have the authority to give a written recommendation to the parents and the court. The FCS conference affords both parents the opportunity to work together toward a mutually acceptable agreement that would be in the best interest of the children. In most cases, the FCS conference lasts approximately 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Mediation has proven helpful for parents in reaching mutually acceptable agreements in many child custody cases. Unfortunately, there are a great number of cases that do not result in agreement. In any child custody case, parents are encouraged to contact an experienced local family law attorney who fully understands the legal process in the San Diego area.
Parents with questions about child custody matters may contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC . Mr. Doppelt is a knowledgeable family law attorney with more than 20 years of experience representing parents in Southern California. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a consultation with a dedicated family lawyer, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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