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Family Court Services

About Family Court Services Mediation

In California parents are required to attend mediation prior to going to Court when there is a disagreement regarding custody and/or visitation of a minor child. Mediation is an opportunity for separating or divorcing parents to meet with a neutral professional in a secure environment to discuss future arrangements for their child/ren. The goal of mediation is to develop a mutually agreed upon, comprehensive parenting plan based on the best interest of the child/ren.

Who Is Eligible To Attend Mediation At Family Court Services?

Parents must have an existing family law court case with the Santa Barbara County Superior Court to be eligible to participate in mediation. The types of acceptable court cases include divorce, legal separation, annulment, paternity, child support enforcement (with the Dept. of Child Support Services), domestic violence prevention with minor children or an action for custody and support of minor children. If you don’t yet have a case filed with this court and do not have an attorney, contact the Office of the Family Law Facilitator for further assistance. 

Who Participates In Mediation?

Both parents must be present for mediation to occur. All children of the relationship who are ages six and over also need to be available, but not within listening range, at the time of the mediation appointment, as the mediator will likely elect to speak with them. The parent who the children are with on the day of the appointment needs to make these arrangements and to assure that the children have a private space to talk.

Where Does Mediation Take Place?

Mediations are currently conducted via Zoom. However, the mediator and/or the Court may require that parties attend in person under certain circumstances.

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

Mediation is free!

How Do I Schedule And/Or Cancel A Mediation Appointment?

Scheduling and/or Cancelling a Mediation Appointment with Family Court Services

Programación y/o cancelación de una cita de mediación con el Centro de Asistencia en Derecho Familiar

Links to forms used to set/cancel mediation:

Notice Of Remote Mediation With Family Custody/Court Services: SC-4042

Notice Of Cancellation Of Mediation And Statement Of Good Cause: SC-4017


PEACE is a free online orientation and educational program designed to help parents who are separating or divorcing understand how these changes affect them and their children, learn about potential problem areas that may cause conflict or be harmful to the children, and understand ways to reduce conflict. PEACE also introduces parents to the mediation process, provides information about parenting plans for children of different ages, and gives ideas on how parents can successfully co-parent.

In Family Law cases where there will be custody and visitation orders for minor children, both parents are required to attend and complete the online PEACE class. The parent setting mediation must complete the PEACE class before an appointment will be given to them and both parents must complete the PEACE class BEFORE attending Mediation. If the parents have not completed the online PEACE class prior to the mediation date, the mediation may not move forward.

Link to the Peace Class:

Please Note: The PEACE Class can only be taken on a computer. If you do not have access to a computer, you may take the following alternative free class, which can be completed on a computer, tablet or phone, and file your certificate of completion with the court with your case number written on it: (English Version) (En Español)

Co-Parenting Essentials (COPE Class):

The C.O.P.E. class is a co-parenting program for high conflict parents. For more information, refer to the contact information below:

Web Address:

Phone Number:     (805)714-6200 (text only)

Co-Parenting Communication Websites:

Youth and Family Mental Health and Wellness Resource Directory

Click on the topics below for more information.

On the day of the mediation, both parents need to log into their preassigned Zoom session prior to the start time. Each parent will be automatically placed in separate Zoom waiting rooms upon login.

All children six and over need to be available, but not within listening range, at the time of the mediation, as the mediator will likely elect to speak with them. The parent who the children are with on the day of the appointment needs to make these arrangements and to assure that the children have a private space to talk.

The mediator will start out by speaking to each parent individually to gather basic information and to complete confidential intake paperwork. After speaking with each parent, the mediator will then speak with each child individually. When speaking with the children, the mediator will ask them general questions to better understand who they are, as this can aid the mediator in helping the parents formulate a plan that is in their best interests. As is the case with all parties, the children’s statements are confidential and will not be shared with the court.

After speaking to all parties individually, the mediator will bring the parents together to talk unless there are circumstances that warrant separate sessions, such as domestic violence restraining orders.

At the mediator’s discretion, there may be some variation on what order and configuration the parties are seen based on individual case differences.

If the parents are able to reach an agreement in mediation regarding custody and visitation, the mediator will help them put it into writing to present to the judge or commissioner in charge of their family law case. This agreement, also called a parenting plan stipulation, becomes a court order after it is signed by all parties, including the judge or commissioner. Once the stipulation is signed by the judge and filed with the court, it is legally binding.

Note: Family Court Services is not a forum for discussing child support matters. It is intended to address custody and visitation only.

Mediation is completely confidential, and none of it can be used as evidence in court proceedings. The mediator will not make custody and visitation recommendations to the court.

Note: While mediation is confidential, mediators are required by law to report the following to the local child protection, adult protection or law enforcement agency:

· Suspected abuse or neglect of a minor, elder or dependent adult

· A person’s intent to seriously harm themselves or others.

Mediation may not be able to move forward if there is an open Child Welfare Services (CWS) case involving the children.

    In cases where there are allegations of domestic violence, the party alleging domestic violence has the right to request separate mediation (Family Code Section 3181) and to have a neutral support person present (Family Code Section 6303). The presence of a support person is limited to providing moral and emotional support.  A mediator may exclude the support person if the support person participates in the mediation session, or acts as an advocate, or the presence of a support person is disruptive or disrupts the process of mediation.

    You should also be aware of Family Code Section 3044. This law says that the judge must follow special rules in deciding custody of the children in cases where a parent has had a conviction in criminal court for domestic violence (or a finding of domestic violence by a judge) against one of the following parties within the past five years: the other parent, their children or their children’s siblings, their parent, their current spouse, or a person they are in a dating relationship with, engaged to or living with. See this important information sheet for more details: “Domestic Violence and Child Custody” and “Violencia en el hogar y la custodia de hijos menores.

    Please note: If there is a no contact Criminal Protective Order in place between the parents, and there are no provisions on the protective order allowing for exceptions, then we cannot mediate until the matter is resolved through the Criminal Courts. (On most criminal protective orders, having box 16b checked will allow the mediation to move forward-or-on some protective orders, it would be box 14b.)

    Spanish speaking mediators are available. Let the Family Court Services Assistant know of your need at the time you set your appointment. If you need an interpreter for any language other than Spanish, please contact the Family Court Services Assistant at least two weeks prior to the mediation appointment so that arrangements may be made.

    If parents are unable to reach an agreement during mediation, the mediator will write a Mediation Report to the judge or commissioner in charge of the case. It will state that the parents participated in mediation but could not reach an agreement. Because the Santa Barbara Superior Court has a confidential mediation program, the mediator will not make a recommendation regarding custody and/or visitation or share any information obtained in mediation with the judge or commissioner in charge of the case.

    When the parents cannot reach an agreement in mediation, either parent can prepare the appropriate legal papers to schedule the case for a hearing in front of the assigned judge or commissioner. At the hearing the judicial officer will hear from both parents and then decide the best plan for custody and visitation. A parent must file and serve the correct paperwork to schedule a court hearing. You may get help with this process from the Family Law Facilitator if you do not have an attorney. 

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