Child Custody can be settled between the parties and documented in a Child Custody Agreement. If an Agreement is not reached and litigation is required, custody cases, other than emergency cases, are handled in a three (3) step process: specifically, Mediation, Custody Conciliation Conference and Hearing before a Judge. The initial Mediation Orientation costs are split between the parties. Typically, the initial Mediation Orientation lasts approximately two (2) hours. The Mediator is selected by the Court; however, the parties do have the option to choose from a list of approved Mediators. The Mediation Orientation meeting is with the parties only and is usually scheduled by the parties or their counsel. Counsel is not permitted to participate in the Mediation Orientation session. The mediation process is confidential by statute and the Mediator cannot be subpoenaed to testify in Court. If an agreement is reached at Mediation, the Mediator will typically outline and forward the terms of the agreement to the parties’ counsel to be incorporated in an Agreed Order. If an agreement is not reached at Mediation, a Conciliation Conference is scheduled.
Conciliation Conferences are held in the Office of the Conciliator. The Conciliator will speak with both Counsel and the parties. No testimony is taken, but the Conciliator will speak with the child or children involved if requested to do so by the parties, or if the Conciliator deems it necessary. The Conciliator will not ask the child or children to choose where they want to live, and prefers to avoid putting the child in the position of feeling disloyal to one of the parties. If the parties reach an agreement, the Conciliator will hand-draft an Agreed Order; however, if no agreement is reached, the Conciliator will advise the parties of his/her opinion and will also advise that he/she will be submitting his/her findings in a written report to the Court. A Hearing before a Judge will subsequently be scheduled.
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