In Orange County, court-ordered custody mediation at the courthouse needs to be carried out when the parents are in dispute regarding issues of visitation and custody before the matter can proceed to a hearing. It generally occurs when one parent wants a change in the custody or visitation order and the other parent does not agree. Mediation is done to help negotiate between the parents. A mental health professional acts as a mediator who assists in the negotiations to help the parents reach an agreement. Preparing for court-ordered custody mediation at the court is important and its is necessary to know a few things before the session.
Appointments – The Family Court Services will set you a date and time for when you will have to meet your mediator. You will be guided through the parent orientation program which offers suggestions and advice regarding co-parenting. If one party misses the scheduled appointment and the other party is present, then the counseling will take place as scheduled. Because the time period between the counseling and the court hearing is so short, it becomes very difficult to reschedule an appointment. If both parties do not attend the mediation, the session will get canceled but will need to be rescheduled before the parties can appear in front of the judge at the hearing. Valid reasons for missing the appointment will have to be provided.
Confidentiality – All communications related to Court-ordered custody mediation kept strictly confidential by all parties involved. Also, no party can communicate with the mediator without the presence or knowledge of the other parties any time before or after the appointment.
Form filling – A completed copy of the ‘Family Court Services Parenting Plan Questionnaire’ has to be submitted to the mediator either the day before or on the same day of the counseling. There is no more information that needs to be provided unless asked for by the mediator.
Interviews – Both parents are interviewed at the same time during the mediation. Telephone interviews may be done in some cases where one of the parents is not available locally.
Other situations – Certain situations may arise where the presence of a support person during counseling is required. This happens if there is a Restraining Order against a parent.