Mediation is required in California whenever a dispute regarding custody or visitation is presented to the court. Parents must go to mediation prior to going to court on custody and visitation issues.
There is no fee charged for court-ordered mediation.
The mediation is completely confidential, and none of it can be used as evidence in court proceedings. If the parents reach an agreement regarding custody and visitation, the mediator will help the parents put it into writing to present to the judge or commissioner in charge of their family law case.
This agreement, also called a parenting plan stipulation, becomes a court order after the judge or commissioner signs it. Once the stipulation is signed by the judge and filed with the court, it is legal and binding on both parents.
If parents are unable to reach agreement in the mediation process, the mediator will write a Mediation Report to the judge or commissioner in charge of the case. It will state that the parents participated in mediation but could not reach an agreement. Because the Santa Barbara Superior Court has a confidential mediation program, the mediator will not make a recommendation regarding custody and/or visitation or share any information obtained in mediation with the judge or commissioner in charge of the case.
When the parents cannot reach an agreement in mediation, either parent can prepare the appropriate legal papers to schedule the case for a hearing in front of the assigned judge or commissioner.
The mediator will not make recommendations to the court. For further information on mediation or other matters related to the divorce process go to sbcourts.org