In all Sacramento child custody actions, the parties are required to attend and complete Sacramento custody mediation before a judge will hear the child custody case. This Sacramento custody mediation can be done free of charge through Sacramento Family Court Services (FCS) or it can be done through paid private custody mediation. The advantage of going through FCS is that the mediator is paid through the county and attending is more convenient and quick. The disadvantage of going through FCS is that you have little control over which mediator is selected and the quality of mediation result is not always satisfactory to both parents.
The FCS mediator will spend a total of 1 or 2 hours with the parents and possibly the children. Based upon that single session, the mediator will make long-term judgments about the result of your Sacramento child custody case and those judgments will carry tremendous weight with the judge later in court. Sacramento family law attorneys are not permitted to attend mediation so the parties are on their own with the mediator. If you presented your case poorly to the mediator, or felt bullied into agreeing to a plan with which you felt uncomfortable, and the mediator’s recommendation is unacceptable to you, you may be stuck with it for at least the next 6 months. The judges rely heavily upon the mediators’ input and only occasionally disagree with it.
The advantage of hiring a private mediator is the mediator spends more time with both parents and the children to create a more informed and workable visitation plan for both parents. The private mediators are generally more experienced and the parents are generally happier with the result. The disadvantage is the cost, which can easily reach $3,000 or more depending upon the depth of the dispute and the time needed to resolve the dispute. Given that both parties are likely already paying legal retainers to their divorce attorneys, this can be a difficult pill for the parties to swallow.
Regardless of the mediation choice you make, if you are involved in a Sacramento family law case or Sacramento child custody case, please do not hesitate to call us. Our Sacramento family law attorneys are prepared to assist you.