Mediation with Family Court Services versus a Private Mediator

March 27, 2024 | By Doppelt and Forney
Mediation with Family Court Services versus a Private Mediator

In San Diego, parents must attend the mandatory mediation when there is a custody and/or visitation dispute except in the case of child molest, child neglect or child abuse in which case emergency temporary orders can be made. The procedure, to initiate mediation, is to file the complaint and summons for paternity, legal separation or divorce and then serve the other parent.

Once the case is filed, a motion called an order to show case needs to be filed if there is a parenting dispute. This will set two court dates: mediation with a licensed clinical social worker hired by the San Diego Superior Court working for Family Court Services and a court hearing with a Superior Court Judge.

If the parents reach a full agreement on custody and visitation for their minor child or children, then a written agreement called a stipulation can be prepared and filed and mediation may not be necessary and the procedure is the same whether you are getting divorced, legally separated or were never married in this regard.

Among the advantages of mediation with Family Court Services is the cost. For the filing fee of $40 for the order to show cause, the mediation with the licensed clinical social worker is included as well as the court hearing. This is very reasonable. In addition, the mediators who work for the Court directly as an employee are respected by the Judges who know them.

Among the disadvantages of mediation with Family Court Services is the amount of time it will take to get a mediation date. Given the cutbacks in funding for the San Diego Superior Court, it may take 60 days or more to get a mediation day from the time of the filing of the motion. During this time, there are no orders so tension and conflict can increase. The other disadvantage is that there is only one session and there may not be enough time to discuss your case and all of the issues with a mediator in the one session. There can be many families going to mediation in either the main Family Law Court House downtown, the Court House in Chula Vista, the Court House in El Cajon or the Court House in Vista {depending on where your case is} and this can also reduce the amount of time you can spend with the mediator.

The advantages of mediation with a private mediator are the personal attention you will receive. As your case may take more than one session, this gives both parents time and opportunity to present all of the important facts and considerations of your case. Another advantage is that you can often schedule your mediation much more quickly with than with Family Court Services.

The disadvantage of mediation with a private mediator is, normally, the cost. The cost is more than the $40 which is paid if using the public mediation.

If you would like to discuss whether, in your case, whether the advantages of attending either mediation strategy outweigh the other, please feel free to contact us for a confidential analysis.