Most people don't actually want to deal with a long, drawn-out child custody hearing in California. It can be mentally and physically exhausting as well as financially difficult.

Fortunately, California stresses the use of mediation between two parents—and their attorneys—to try to resolve custody issues in a cooperative manner outside the courtroom.

Mediation gives parents a chance to sit down with a trained professional to work out a parenting plan. That mediator must maintain a completely neutral standpoint during the mediation process and is there to help facilitate a calm, productive conversation. The goal is to work out details like how time will be split between the two parents, which days of the week each parent will have, what time of day the switches will be made, where the children will be picked up from when switching houses, and as many other details as possible.

Courts like to see parents' plans worked out in mediation because it ensures a situation that both parents have created together and agreed to together. It helps to reduce negative feelings and ensure a more harmonious home life for the children. The agreement that comes out of the mediation sessions will be put in writing, and both parents will sign it to prove their consent.

If parents cannot work out a parenting plan in mediation, one of two things may happen:

  1. The mediator might develop a recommended parenting plan based on your discussions and then present that to the judge. The judge will have the final say.
  2. If the mediator does not hand in a recommended plan, your case will go before the judge. Since you could not agree on a specific child custody situation, the judge is going to decide for you.

The judge is required to consider specific factors in deciding child custody orders in San Francisco. You and your spouse (or former spouse) might be more comfortable making those decisions cooperative with the help of a mediator.

If you want to learn about your options for child custody in the San Francisco area, call family law attorney Paul Nathan for a consultation at 415-341-1144.