Family Law Private Mediation - frequently asked questions

  • What is private mediation for family law cases?
  • In private mediation, the parties choose to work with a neutral mediator to resolve their disputes without going through court hearings or trial. You may participate with or without attorneys. You may work out agreements to all or some of your disputes, including divorce, spousal support, child custody, visitation and parenting plans, child support, and property, debt and income disputes. The goal is to reach voluntary agreements that promote understanding, communication and individual and common interests while avoiding the time, cost and stress of court processes.

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  • Is family law private mediation the same as Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC)?
  • No. Family law private mediation is completely different.

    CCRC is sometimes known as “Family Court Services” or “Family Law Mediation” for child custody cases. It is different from private mediation in these ways:

    A. Limitations

    CCRC only deals with child custody and visitation issues.

    Private mediation has no limitations. You can work out agreements to all issues at the same time, including child custody, visitation, spousal support, child support and property, debt and income disputes.

    CCRC does not allow attorneys to participate.

    In private mediation, you may participate with or without attorneys, as you wish.

    Private mediation is not available from the court's panel

    • where there is a judicial determination of domestic violence: Criminal Protective Orders (CPOs) and Restraining Orders (ROs)
    • if there is child abuse or neglect, private mediators on the court's panel cannot mediate the child custody and visitation issues, but they may be able to mediate other issues in the case
    • if the custodial parent receives public assistance (DCSS “aided” cases), private mediators cannot mediate the child support issues, but they may be able to mediate other issues in the case.
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      B. Requirements

      CCRC is required if the parents cannot agree on custody and visitation.

      Private mediation is always completely voluntary. You can use it to try to reach agreements on custody and visitation along with all other issues in your case. If you can, you don’t need CCRC. If you cannot, you will probably be ordered to CCRC to deal with the custody and visitation disputes.

      In private mediation, the parties themselves decide whether they want to settle all or part of their case; the mediator has no authority to make decisions, rulings or reports to the court.

      C. Confidentiality

      CCRC counselors try to help the parties reach agreements on custody and
      visitation. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the CCRC counselor is
      required to make a report to the judge with recommendations about custody
      and visitation based on the best interests of the children. CCRC counseling
      sessions are not confidential.

      Private mediators try to help the parties reach agreements on custody and
      visitation along with all other issues. Private mediators are not allowed to make
      any decisions, reports or recommendations to the judge. The only thing the
      private mediator can report is whether or not the case settled.

      D. Referrals

      CCRC: The court refers or orders parties to CCRC.

      Private mediation: The parties themselves voluntarily choose to arrange private mediation without court involvement.

      E. Costs

      CCRC: There is no cost for CCRC.

      Private mediation: Private mediators charge for their services but many offer reduced-cost mediations.

      Private mediators are available:

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  • If we were ordered to Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC), can we go to private mediation instead?
  • Yes. Be sure to contact the CCRC office to explain why you are canceling your appointment. If you cannot reach an agreement in private mediation you will have to reschedule your CCRC appointment.

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  • How do we contact Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC) in Riverside County?
    • Blythe - 760.775.8500
    • Hemet - 951.306.3081
    • Indio - 760.393.2424
    • Riverside - 951.777.3495 or 777.3496
    • Southwest Justice Center - 951.704.7479
  • Who are the private mediators on the court’s Family Law Private Mediation Panel?
  • These private mediators ARE

    • Local family law attorneys with at least 5 years of family law experience
    • Trained and/or experienced in family law mediation
    • Approved by the court to post their Mediator Profiles on the court's web site

    These mediators ARE NOT

    • Not connected to the court's CCRC Department
    • Not allowed to make decisions about the parties, their children or the case
    • Not allowed to discuss the case with the judge; not allowed to make any oral or written reports or recommendations for the judge or the case file
    • Not the lawyer for either party

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  • What do private mediators on the court’s Family Law Private Mediation Panel do?
    • Listen to each person's concerns
    • Help parties evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case
    • When appropriate, help the parties understand and communicate with each other
    • Explore all options, including options custom-made for the parties’ specific situation
    • Provide “reality checks” about the possible outcomes in court and in settlement
    • Work with the parties to create voluntary agreements that are acceptable to everyone

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  • What kinds of family law disputes can go to private mediation?
  • Many family law disputes can be resolved using private mediation. These include:
    • Divorce
    • Domestic Partnership Dissolutions
    • Legal Separation
    • Spousal Support
    • Partner Support
    • Custody, Visitation and Co-Parenting Plans
    • Paternity
    • Most Child Support issues
    • Business, Property, Debt, Income Issues
    • Pensions
    • Military Rights

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  • What are the pros and cons of private mediation vs. adversarial court hearings and trial?

  • Advantages
  • Faster: private mediation can sometimes be completed in one day.
  • Less expensive: Parties can save court costs, attorney fees and witness fees.
  • More control: Parties choose their private mediator and schedule the session at a convenient time and place. The parties themselves decide whether to settle their case fully, partially or not at all.
  • More private:  private mediation takes place in private offices, not public courtrooms. Mediators can meet with the parties in separate rooms or even on different dates. 
  • Less stressful:  Mediation is an informal process.  The parties can discuss special concerns about the mediation process with their mediator.
  • Focus on family issues, relationships, and practical concerns:  private mediation can focus on the key non-legal issues that may be at the heart of the dispute.
  • Unique, case-by-case solutions:  private mediators can help parties create a settlement agreement that fits the parties’ particular situation.

  • Disadvantages:
  • No public trial: If the parties fully settle their case, they do not get their “day in court” or a decision by a judge.
  • Costs:  If the case doesn’t settle in mediation, parties may have to pay for both mediation and trial. Parties may still have to go to CCRC if they cannot resolve their custody & visitation disputes in private mediation.

  • Private mediation may be appropriate when the parties:
  • Want to work out a solution but need help from a neutral person; or
  • Have communication problems or strong emotions that interfere with resolution; or
  • Have a continuing business, personal, or parental relationship

  • Private mediation may not be appropriate when the parties:
  • Want their public “day in court” or a judicial determination on points of law or fact;
  • Lack equal bargaining power or have a history of physical/emotional abuse.

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  • What if there has been domestic violence (physical or emotional abuse?)
  • Private mediation is most effective when parties can communicate and solve problems without fear or intimidation. When there is a history of domestic violence in a relationship, private mediation is probably not appropriate.

    Private mediators on the court’s Family Law Private Mediation Panel do not accept cases which have a judicial determination of Domestic Violence, including Criminal Protective Orders (CPOs) or Restraining Orders (ROs).

    Domestic Violence:

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • For the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233
  • For more information go to Riverside Superior Court's Domestic Violence Self Help site or California Department of Public Health - Violence Prevention Resource Directory

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  • What if the case involves possible child abuse or neglect?
  • Private mediators on the court’s Family Law Private Mediation Panel may not assist parties with custody, visitation or parenting plans when possible child abuse or neglect is involved. Private mediators on this panel are required to refer parties in these cases to Child Custody Recommending Counselors (CCRC) to deal with custody and visitation issues.

    Private mediators may be able to mediate remaining issues, such as property and income disputes.

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  • Can we mediate child support issues if the custodial parent gets public assistance or the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is involved?
  • No. But you may use private mediation for all other issues in the case, and you should inform your private mediator of the DCSS issue.

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  • Do we need lawyers for private mediation?
  • No. But if you have a lawyer, you and your lawyer must decide if your lawyer will go with you to the private mediation session.

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  • How much does private mediation cost?
  • Private family law attorney-mediators in Riverside County generally charge somewhere between $150 - $500 per hour, but many private mediators on the court’s panel offer reduced or sliding scale rates. This information is posted in their Mediator Profiles.

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  • How much time does private mediation take?
  • Most private mediation sessions last at least 2 - 3 hours. Some cases need more time; some less. And, some cases need more than one session so that the participants can have time to think about their options or locate missing information.

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  • When can we schedule private mediation?
  • You may schedule private mediation whenever you want. You may try private mediation before filing court documents or anytime after filing. In many cases, the earlier the parties try private mediation, the more benefits they receive (fewer court hearings, lower attorneys’ fees, earlier judgments, less stress).

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  • What if we have a scheduled court date but would like to try private mediation?
  • Go to the hearing and let the judge know that you’d like to try private mediation. Ask the judge to set a “return date” so that if you have to go back to court, you won’t have to file additional paperwork.

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  • Where does private mediation take place?
  • Private mediation usually takes place in the private mediator’s office, but other arrangements can sometimes be made.

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  • What if I don't feel safe meeting with the other party?
  • Private mediation is most effective when parties are able to communicate and solve problems without fear or intimidation. For this reason, when there is a history of physical or emotional abuse in a relationship, private mediation is probably not appropriate. Discuss any concerns you have with your attorney and private mediator.

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  • How do we arrange for private mediation for our family law case?
  • A. Selecting a Private Mediator:

    The parties must agree on a private mediator.

    Private mediators are available:

    B. Contacting the private mediator

    Any party or attorney in the case may contact a private mediator to see if he/she can accept the case. Be sure to discuss fees, location, scheduling and any other concerns about the case with the private mediator.

    Note that private mediators are not required to accept any particular case and they are not required to give a reason for declining any case.

    C. Scheduling the private mediation:

    The parties schedule the private mediation session directly with their private mediator without court involvement.

    D. Preparing for private mediation:

    Your private mediator will give you instructions about preparing for the private mediation session. Parties who cooperate with the private mediator’s instructions help facilitate the process and save themselves time and money.

    E. Paying for private mediation:

    The parties pay the fees and costs directly to their private mediator.  The court is not involved in private mediation fee arrangements in any way.  In most cases, the parties split the private mediator’s fees and costs.

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  • What happens after private mediation?
  • If you have an attorney, he or she will advise you on the next steps.

    If you are a self-represented party, meet with a Family Law Facilitator.

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© 2011 Superior Court of California, County of Riverside