Family dynamics, demographic characteristics, and socioeconomic status affect both the difficulty of resolving child custody and visitation issues through court-based mediation and the resources necessary to do so. This research update examines the characteristics of court-based child custody mediation cases in California. It also examines the relationship between issues involved in a case, the mediator’s rating of difficulty, and the resolution of the case in mediation. The findings have implications for the resource needs of Family Court Services (the agency that provides court-based child custody mediation in the state), the implementation of California Rules of Court requiring intake and assessment for mediation, and the design of mediation and related services.
California law mandates that all family law cases in which there is a dispute over child custody or visitation be set for mediation. The courts, through their Family Court Services units, provide mediation at no charge to the parties. Although the proportion of all cases involving child custody that proceed to this court-based mediation service is not measured, it is estimated to be about 20 to 25 percent. In most cases, the parties reach agreements on their own – with or without the assistance of an attorney or private mediator – or file uncontested petitions for custody. This research update reports on data that were collected only for cases that participated in court-based child custody mediation.
The findings in this research update indicate the high level of difficulty of many of the cases that courtbased custody mediators work with. As part of the study described, mediators rated the difficulty of the issues that they worked on with each case. The rating scale ranged from 1 (not at all difficult) to 10 (extremely difficult). In 1999, mediators rated 23 percent of cases as a 9 or higher and 39 percent of cases as an 8 or higher. A sizeable proportion of these “difficult cases” do not reach resolution of all their case issues in one mediation session; therefore, they may require more time and resources to investigate.
Read the full report here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/resupDiffCases99.pdf
and the fact sheet here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/onepgDiffCases99.pdf