Child custody can be one of the most difficult decisions that some parents face in their lifetime. Part of what makes custody determinations so hard is that it is rarely up to either parent to simply make the decision that they think is best. Parents must either mutually arrive at a decision that they feel is in the child’s best interests as well as their own capabilities, or hand the matter over to a judge to decide. Mediation can be an excellent way of helping this process along in a way that is less traumatic to all parties involved. If you have questions about parenting plans in California and using mediation, we will do our best to answer them below.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a required part of all child custody hearings in California. The parenting plan addresses matters such as the primary roles and responsibilities of each parent, including which parent will have primary and physical custody, visitation rights, and child support payments. All of these matters must be settled to the court’s satisfaction in order for a custody matter to be resolved. In order for the court to effect the agreement as law, the judge must decide that the terms are in the best interest of the child.
What does a parenting plan have to include?
A parenting plan includes all information pertinent to the care of a shared child. This includes custody, visitation, child support, and the primary responsibilities are roles of each parent. Parenting plans may also include things such as medical decisions for the child, transport to extracurricular activities, and which parent will have the child on school breaks and holidays. All of these issues can be highly contentious, and they must all be settled before the court will issue orders and resolve the matter.
Can I use mediation to create a parenting plan?
Many parents believe that they have to let the court decide these matters and go through litigation, which is a lengthy and expressive process, without thinking about it. However, there is a loophole. If parents are able to agree on the terms of their parenting plan on their own, they can simply submit the agreement to the court without ever having to set foot inside of it. You may be reading this thinking that you and your co-parent would never be able to agree on anything, but having a neutral third-party mediator can make a world of difference, and, in fact, the majority of parenting plan mediations are successful, even for couples that do not historically have an easy time reaching decisions together.
What are the benefits of using mediation for making a parenting plan?
There are many benefits to using mediation to create a parenting plan rather than defaulting to the court system. The child custody process tends to be traumatic for all those involved, parents and shared children included. Using mediation can be better for the mental health of all parties. Mediation keeps all matters related to the parenting plan negotiations private, whereas going to court allows them to be a matter of public record, which can have negative implications for the child and family members. It can also allow the process to be more collaborative. Some parents even report that it helped them build healthy communication skills that they used in their co-parenting relationship moving forward. However, for many parties the biggest benefit is that mediation can be much faster and less expensive than going to court.
Are there drawbacks to using mediation to make a parenting plan?
You will be relieved to know that there are no real drawbacks when it comes to utilizing mediation to create a parenting plan. The worst case scenario is just that you and your co-parent do not reach a mutually agreeable solution. However, in that case, you would merely return to court, bringing any progress that was made in mediation along with you.
How long does parenting plan mediation take?
In court, litigating and adjudicating all matters required for a parenting plan can take months, and it is not uncommon for it to take over a year. However, parenting plan mediation can be completed in a handful of two or three-hour-long sessions. This saves valuable time and money that would otherwise be spent in court and also helps to get your family out of legal limbo and on with living their lives as quickly as possible.
Will parenting plan mediation save me money?
While you may be wary of taking on yet another legal expense, parenting plan mediation almost always saves parties money. Litigation is the most expensive service provided by attorneys, so the more time they spend representing you and negotiating parenting plan issues such as custody and visitation in court, the higher your legal expenses will be. If, instead, you use a mediator, which is far more affordable than a lawyer, you are minimizing the amount of time that you have to spend in court, as well as the total cost of the proceedings.
What happens if parenting plan mediation is not successful?
If parenting plan mediation is not ultimately successful, all is not lost. There are many issues that must be determined for a parenting plan, and chances are, you have made headway on, or agreed on, at least some of them. The progress that you have made through mediation can be brought with you to court, and only the remaining matters must be litigated. This means that even a mediation that is ultimately unsuccessful can still save you time and money.
Does our child need to be involved in parenting plan mediation?
In most cases there is not a need to involve your child in parenting plan mediation. If they are old enough to have an intelligent and informed opinion on who they would rather live with, that can be considered by the mediator and parents, but mediations can also be conducted through the lens of the child’s best interests without having to involve them.
How does parenting plan mediation work?
In parenting plan mediation, a neutral third-party mediator will help guide the parties to mutually agreeable decisions on matters related to child custody, visitation, and child support, in order to create a parenting plan. Once both parties agree to the terms of the plan they can have attorneys review it and then it will be submitted to the court for approval.
Schedule a Consultation with Asa Pitt Mediation in Los Angeles, California
If you need a parenting plan but do not want to step food in a courtroom, Asa Pitt Mediation can help. Contact Asa Pitt Mediation in Los Angeles, California today to schedule a consultation.