Child Custody Mediation is a common form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that may be available to you to work out your disagreements regarding child custody and/or visitation. Often times the family courts will provide child custody mediation through the Family Court Services department or Conciliation Court.
In a child custody mediation setting, a trained neutral person called a "mediator" will typically facilitate the communication between the parties with the intent of helping the parties successfully discuss and work out their child custody and visitation disagreements.
Many states require parents to attend divorce mediation as a first attempt to work out their disagreements regarding child custody and/or visitation before the family court will issue orders in a litigated hearing. California divorce mediation is one state in which mediation is a mandatory step for parents (they must meet with a California divorce mediator) before they can have their contested child custody and visitation issues heard by a judge (see California Family Code Section 3170-3173).
In some child custody cases, parents will work out all their child custody and visitation disagreements and avoid long-drawn-out litigation and hefty attorney fees. For parents who are able to work out their child custody and visitation issues, money is often saved and animosity towards the parents is often reduced. Parents keep control of the outcome of their child custody case by not giving control over to the court or a judge. Although there are many benefits of settling your child custody and visitation issues in child custody mediation, it is not a realistic solution for everyone. Child custody mediation does not work for all cases, especially cases that have a history of high-conflict and high degree of mistrust between the parties.
Before submitting to child custody mediation, you may want to do some research and consult a family law attorney in your area to see if child custody mediation is the right forum for you to settle your child custody and visitation issues.