Mediation in San Luis Obispo
What is Mediation?
In mediation, a neutral third party, known as a mediator, helps you and the other party reach an agreement about your divorce or other family issue. The mediator will not make the decision for you. You will retain control over the decisions that will affect your future.
I am Robbi Rizzo, Attorney at Law, and I can work with you to help you understand the mediation process and how it can benefit you and your family. To learn more about mediation in San Luis Obispo or Paso Robles, contact my law office.
Types of Mediation Available
Some of the types of mediation available in family law matters are:
If parents are unable to reach an agreement and are asking the court to intervene, custody mediation will be required prior to your hearing or trial. In San Luis Obispo County, a Family Court Services mediator will meet with the parties to assist them in negotiating and reaching agreement on a parenting plan for their children. We are a “non-reporting” county, meaning mediation is confidential and the mediator may not report to the court on anything discussed in mediation.
The only recommendations the mediator may make to the court relate to services, such as counseling, a custody evaluation or an attorney for the children, if the mediator believes such services would be in the children’s best interests. The court is not obligated to follow any such recommendations.
This mediation process is limited to custody and visitation issues. No financial issues, including child support, will be addressed.
Family Court Services does not charge for the mediation, so this is a very low cost alternative for addressing such important issues. Attorneys do not participate in this mediation process. However, the attorney for any represented party must sign off on any agreement reached before it is submitted to the court.
Private (Attorney) Mediation
Parties may choose to meet jointly with a private mediator. It is important that your private mediator know family law specifically and be able to provide a reality check on likely outcomes if your matter were to proceed to trial. Therefore, a family law attorney who focuses a significant portion of his or her practice on mediation is the best choice. A non-attorney mediator is not legally permitted to explain the law to you and an attorney who does not have family law experience will be less able to provide perspective on your specific issues.
A mediator does not represent either party and is in a neutral role in the process. Mediators have different styles in how much input they provide, but your individual rights are not protected without the assistance of your own attorney.
I do not provide mediation services in my practice; however, the role I can and do fill in this process is to assist my client in preparing for mediation negotiations, review any proposed agreements and inform my client of his or her rights. I strongly urge any mediation participant to consult with an attorney independent from the mediation process to at least have any potential agreements reviewed before they are signed. Such services can often be provided in a more limited-cost, consulting manner without formally coming into the case as attorney of record.
Court-Facilitated Mediation and Settlement Conferences
Parties may request mediation and/or a settlement conference through the courts, generally as a pre-trial settlement effort. Mediation is then scheduled with a judge who is not the judge assigned to the case for trial and all other purposes. The parties and their attorneys appear before the alternate judge to present the facts and law supporting their positions and the alternate judge weighs in and facilitates negotiations. If the parties do not resolve the issues through these efforts, they will likely proceed to trial.
In all cases, mediation is protected by privilege and confidentiality rules. In general, discussions during mediation may not be brought up outside of mediation. These protections are in place to encourage open communication and a high degree of cooperation by reducing the fear that what you say will be used against you.