California Family Court Custody Mediation vs. Private Mediation


When dealing with child custody or visitation issues in Family Court, parties are often required to attend mediation or child custody recommending counseling (CCRC), depending on the jurisdiction they are in. Mediation and CCRC are essential steps in the legal process to help parents come to agreements regarding their children. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of both mediation and CCRC, their significance, and how they can influence the outcome of a custody dispute.

The Purpose of Mediation and CCRC

Understanding Mediation

Mediation is a process where both parents work with an experienced counselor or psychotherapist with a master’s degree related to marriage and family interpersonal relationships. The primary goal of mediation is to facilitate communication and cooperation between the parents, helping them reach agreements on various issues concerning their children.

Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC)

CCRC is a similar process to mediation, where an experienced counselor assists parents in resolving their disputes over child custody and visitation. The counselor will make recommendations to the court based on their assessment of the family’s dynamics and the best interests of the children.

Mediation Process

Voluntary or Mandatory Mediation

Mediation can be voluntary or mandatory, depending on the jurisdiction. In some cases, both parents must attend mediation before proceeding to court, while in others, it may be an optional step.

Opting for Private Mediation

If both parents agree, they can opt for private mediation instead of working with a court-appointed mediator. Private mediation provides more flexibility and allows both parties to have more control over the process.

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Restraining Orders and Separate Meetings

If there is a restraining order in place or violence is alleged, the mediator may conduct separate meetings with each parent to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Focus on Children’s Best Interests

The main focus of mediation is to address issues related to the children’s safety, welfare, and best interests. Discussions may involve physical and legal custody, visitation schedules, schooling, holiday arrangements, medical needs, special requirements, extracurricular activities, and other matters affecting the children.

Negotiation and Compromise

During mediation, parents have the opportunity to express their positions and proposed parenting schedules. The mediator helps facilitate negotiation and compromise, aiming to reach agreements that benefit the children and meet their needs.

Mediator’s Recommendations

In some jurisdictions, the mediator may submit a report to the court summarizing both parents’ requests and concerns, followed by their recommendations. While not legally binding, the court often considers these recommendations while making decisions.

CCRC Process

Working with Family Court Services Mediators (FCS)

CCRC is typically conducted by Family Court Services Mediators who work for the court. Parents may receive notification of the mediation date, location, and time by mail or may need to schedule the session through a phone call.

Limited Time and Opportunities

Unlike private mediation, CCRC sessions usually allow for only one meeting between parents and the mediator, lasting between 20 to 60 minutes. This limited time may make it challenging for parents to fully present their sides of the story or gather all necessary information.

No Follow-up Sessions

There is no provision for follow-up sessions in CCRC, which means parents must make the most of their initial meeting to ensure their concerns are adequately heard and understood.

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Mediator-Child Interaction

In many cases, there is no time for the mediator to interact with the children involved, which can limit the mediator’s understanding of the family dynamics.

Cost Considerations

Cost of FCS Mediation

There is generally no charge to parents for FCS mediation. However, if a parent has an attorney, they may have to pay for the attorney’s time, including attendance during mediation.

Private Mediation Expenses

Private mediators, on the other hand, charge for their services. The total cost depends on the number of sessions needed, whether children will be involved, and if additional information like an IEP report is required.

Mediators vs. Lawyers

While private mediators charge fees, they are generally more affordable than hiring attorneys to handle custody disputes. Mediators aim to facilitate a settlement and promote cooperation between parents.

Avoiding Mediation Altogether

Coming to an Agreement

Mediation can be avoided if both parents agree on all child-related issues. Even if the agreement is temporary, it can provide a positive starting point for divorce proceedings.

Preparing a Stipulation and Order

In cases where an agreement is reached before the court hearing, parents can prepare a Stipulation and Order to present their mutual decisions to the court.


Mediation and Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC) play pivotal roles in resolving child custody disputes amicably. These processes allow parents to communicate effectively, prioritize their children’s best interests, and work towards mutual agreements. While mediation provides more flexibility and control for parents, CCRC offers court-recommended insights. It is crucial for parents to understand their options and make informed decisions that foster positive outcomes for their children.

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1. What if mediation doesn’t work for us? If mediation doesn’t lead to agreements or isn’t suitable for your situation, you may need to proceed to court for a resolution.

2. Can the mediator’s recommendations influence the court’s decision? While the mediator’s recommendations are not binding, they can be persuasive and often considered by the court.

3. What happens if there is a restraining order in place? If there is a restraining order or allegations of violence, separate meetings may be conducted with the mediator for the safety of all parties.

4. How can I prepare for mediation or CCRC? Be ready to express your concerns and proposed parenting schedules. Gather relevant information and focus on the children’s best interests.

5. Is private mediation better than court-appointed mediation? Private mediation offers more flexibility and control, but it depends on your situation and willingness to cooperate with your ex-spouse.

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