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Mediation: Child Custody Issues in California Divorce

June 6, 2013
Click the photo to visit David's website

Click the photo to visit David’s website

This is the fourth in a multi-part series by A Better Divorce member David Kuroda, LCSW Division Chief, Mediation and Conciliation Service Superior Court of Los Angeles (ret.) titled CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES: AVOIDING TRIAL, RESPONSES TO THE UNPRECEDENTED REDUCTIONS IN COURT FUNDING – A BILLIONAIRE CHOOSES COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE.  The article is one of 16 in the family reference materials of The Family Law Symposium, the major family law event for attorneys in So. California.   Read Part One Here. Read Part Two Here. Read Part Three Here


 The Family Law Symposium has grown over the years and has become the premier program for family law practitioners; it wasn’t that long ago the program drew over 700 attendees. Veteran family law attorneys remember the years when thousands attended the program at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Trial attorneys with the high profile cases are often the presenters and the typical middle class cases are not often discussed. Except for a number of years ago when Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman was the Symposium Chair when the theme was “The Vast Middle Class,” most Symposium presenters discuss the high end cases with substantial assets. Some of the new developments in family law are occurring outside the traditional channels of family law. Collaborative law and mediation are a few examples of newer approaches to settling cases.





 Unhappy clients create unhappy attorneys. Family law seems to have more than its fair share of unhappy litigants. And malpractice insurance rates have increased. Mothers and fathers, it doesn’t seem to matter, have many reasons to complain about what the courts or their attorneys didn’t do for them. They will complain to anyone who will hear, but their dissatisfaction rises to a level of serious concern when the state bar or the Administrative Office of the Courts or the malpractice carriers become involved. When Lori Behar was introduced at bar meetings as the family law commissioner replacing Judge Kenneth Black in Long Beach, she recognized many of the attorneys. When I asked her how she knew so many family law attorneys, she said she had represented a number of lawyers in legal malpractice cases. She knew, more quickly than most, some of the hazards of practicing family law.

It is often on the eve of another RFO or trial that the retainer is exhausted and additional funds are requested from the client. Both attorney and litigant become concerned about what the additional funds will produce. It is often at this point that mediation holds promise for relieved attorneys and satisfied clients. Clients can often be encouraged to work out agreements through mediation, agreements that address their needs for fairness and certainty, especially when children are involved, agreements that meet the best interests of their families.   Attorneys sleep better knowing their clients are satisfied; they also don’t have to stay up late at night preparing for trial. A number of cases from prominent law firms are being referred to mediation and agreements are being worked out.

Recently a child custody evaluator told me of a settlement reached on the bench outside the courtroom. He had written his report and was ready to testify when the attorneys, parents and evaluator started talking about resolving the custody issue. The matter was resolved. Instead of a court reporter recording the session, one of the attorneys wrote a stipulation confirming the details of the agreement. Good outcome with the settlement, but one wonders how it could have happened earlier in the litigation.

After a talk I gave on mediation and collaborative divorce, a family law litigator challenged “David, I also settle almost all of my cases without going to trial.” I said that’s very good, but let’s look at when the cases settle. The settlement the day before trial may be the same settlement, but how much better for the families if the settlement occurs months earlier, before so much of the family’s savings are spent.


David Kuroda is the former Division Chief, Family Court Services, Superior Court of Los Angeles and directed the Mediation and Conciliation Service, the first and largest court mediation program in the nation.

In his 18 years with the Superior Court, he was responsible for the district courts, the PACT and Contemnors’ Programs, Divorce Seminars, and Visitation Monitors. Under his leadership, the service set high standards for the mediation service and other innovative programs serving children and families of divorce.

He has served on numerous committees with the Judicial Council, Los Angeles County Bar Executive Committee, Family Law Section, and has collaborated on numerous programs with the bar associations of the South Bay, Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, and Long Beach. He’s the past vice-president of A Better Divorce: A group of collaborative professionals; he also serves as vice-president of the California Social Welfare Archives., on he advisory board of the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association, and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) California Chapter and with the George Nickel Award by the California Social Welfare Archives, USC.

In addition to directing the program, he has personally provided mediation services to over 7,000 families from the working poor to the wealthy and famous, including high profile cases and movie producers. Virtually all parents, whatever their backgrounds, love their children, and with some guidance, have been able to work together, even after divorce. Mr. Kuroda has provided training for graduate students from USC, and has taught professionals child custody mediation.

Always consult a professional in your area.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ken Harvey permalink
    June 7, 2013 6:59 am

    Excellent points, as usual.

    Ken Harvey

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