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What is Divorce Mediation? Child Custody Issues in California Divorce

June 13, 2013
Click the photo to visit David's website

Click the photo to visit David’s website

This is the fifth 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  Read Part Four Here

MEDIATORS AND QUALIFICATIONS

Mediation is the process that enables two parties with a dispute to resolve the matter themselves by reaching agreements with the assistance of the third party, the mediator. Child custody mediation was mandated by law in divorce and paternity cases in 1981 in California (Family Code §3170.There are several pilot programs in the central and southwest districts that provide volunteer mediators. Similar to the program in civil mediation, trained attorney mediators provide the initial three hours at no charge and charge their normal hourly fee for additional hours.

In California there is no legal restriction limiting who can practice as a mediator. There is no requirement for a certification or license to be a mediator and legislative attempts to provide certification for mediators have been unsuccessful. Many family law attorneys have included mediation as one of their services, and a number of them have practices that include mediation only; most mediators working in the California family court services are mental health professionals. Clinicians are uniquely qualified to mediate child custody disputes between divorcing and separating parents because of their understanding of the psychodynamics of loss and conflict and their ability to deal with the underlying feelings. Especially since no-fault divorce was introduced in California over 40 years ago, the story of the divorce comes out in the custody disputes.

Although Los Angeles County provides mediation that is confidential, a number of the adjacent counties allow the mediator to make recommendations. These are the counties that have been targeted by the critics of mediation, and the Elkins reforms addresses the counties where recommendations can be made. The process will be more like Los Angeles, but the new procedures will be troublesome for many. If an attorney has a case in San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, it would wise to inquire about any new procedures for mediation in the family court.

 

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.

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