If Parents Can’t Agree

When divorcing parents (or parents in a parentage action) who share joint legal custody cannot agree on how to raise their child(ren) (whether it be faith, school choice, or sports), one or both parents may ask the court for assistance.  California already requires parents to attend court-ordered mediation with Family Court Services.  In an opinion piece this Sunday in the New York Times, Dr. Robert E. Emery suggests the legal system should encourage more cooperation between parents, including the honoring of what he calls “parental agreements”.

A “parental agreement,” according to Dr. Emery could include an “enforceable contract… that a parenting coordinator could make decisions for them in the future if they fail to agree.”  In California, parents may stipulate to appoint a private child custody recommending mediator (sample Stipulation & Order here and here).

The Recommending Mediator can work closely with both parents to help them reach an agreement on an array of parenting issues. The parents can set the scope of the Recommending Mediator’s work.  For example, the Mediator can help with planning extracurricular and religious activities, but could not opine on the custody labels.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the Recommending Mediator makes a decision.  However, that decision can be challenged in the court, and a judge will ultimately be left to decide what is in the “best interest of the children.”

A Recommending Mediator may be helpful in reaching a resolution with the other parent in your case.  If you have custody/visitation questions or want to know if a Recommending Mediator is right for your case, be sure to talk to an experienced family law attorney.