Superior Court of California - County of Orange

Child Custody Mediation

Please Note
Q: What is a child custody mediation?
A: In California, child custody mediation is a mandatory process (Family Code Section 3170) that provides parents an opportunity to discuss and resolve issues relating to the best interest of their children. Mediation is a confidential process conducted by highly trained Court Mediators who assist the parents by facilitating a cooperative dialogue focusing on the developmentally appropriate needs of their children. It is the task of the Court Mediator to create a safe, neutral setting in which parents may discuss and resolve issues related to the parenting of their children.

Q: How can child custody mediation help parents?
A: A skilled and trained Court Mediator can encourage parents to focus on and understand the needs of their children and assist them in developing a parenting plan that considers the best interest of the child and the needs of each family member. What is discussed between the parents and the Court Mediator is not shared with anyone, including the Court. Child abuse is an exception to this rule.

Q: Who conducts the child custody mediation?
A: Child custody mediation is conducted by Court Mediators who are skilled professionals with at least a Master's Degree and extensive clinical experience in the fields of psychology, marriage, family and child counseling. Statutory training requirements include: domestic violence and its effects on children; substance abuse; child sexual abuse; family dynamics; the effects of divorce and separation on children; and the developmental needs of children.

Q: How does child custody mediation work?
A: Court Mediators understand that parents know their children better than anyone else and want to do what is best for them. The Court Mediator listens carefully to the concerns and ideas of each parent, and encourages the parents to listen to one another with an open mind. The goal is to help parents discuss and develop a parenting plan that reflects the developmental needs of their children and one that enhances the quality of their lives.

Q: How do I access Family Court Services?
A: Most of the work of Family Court Services is generated by court filings and petitions which are related to children in the Family Law and Juvenile Courts. We do offer, at no cost, mediation services to parents who want to resolve custody or visitation disputes without filing for a court hearing. This is called "informal mediation" and can be scheduled by calling (714) 935-6550 for an appointment. It is not necessary to have an attorney to participate in the mediation process.

Legal Terms Related to Custody and Visitation


Legal Custody: The rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of their children.

Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share in the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.

Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.

Physical Custody: How much time the children spend with each parent; where the children live; how day-to-day responsibilities are fulfilled.

Joint Physical Custody: Children spend a significant amount of time with each parent.

Sole Physical Custody: Children reside primarily with one parent and have visitation with the other parent.

Joint Custody: This term means both joint legal and joint physical custody. Parents agree to share it all.

Visitation: Times when one parent has the children and is fully responsible for them.

Supervised Visitation:Visitation is limited to special situations in which a third party, specified by the Court, is present. Supervised, monitored visitation may occur when there is a need to protect children because of drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, family violence, or other serious problems, or when children are getting to know an absent parent.

Q: What is a Parenting Plan?
A: A Parenting Plan is an agreement between the parents that spells out the specific details of custody and visitation arrangements for their children.

Q: What are some options for a Parenting Plan?
A: Options for Parenting Plans may differ, depending on the individual circumstances of each family and the age of the children.

Examples: Q: Do Court Mediators give legal advice?
A: Court Mediators are not attorneys and cannot advise anyone regarding legal practices or procedures. Court Mediators can answer questions about the court process.
© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County