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How to increase the odds of success in mediation

Mediation can be an effective tool for California couples who are facing the end of their marriage. However, there are some steps that people should take before starting the mediation process to increase its effectiveness. For instance, people may wish to prepare for a variety of outcomes as opposed to aiming for a specific conclusion.

Ideally, a person will consider both his or her needs as well as the needs of the other party. In some cases, the needs of both parties will align closely, which may make a favorable outcome easier to achieve. Those who are going through mediation should take stock of their emotions before negotiations begin. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience an emotional outburst because they are free to talk for the first time in months or years.

DNA testing plays conclusive role in establishing parentage

DNA testing has a good track record of identifying the father of a child. With an accuracy rate of almost 100 percent, California courts recognize the results as valid when making rulings about child support, visitation and custody. In cases in which a man questions his role as the father of a child, especially if the woman wants him to pay child support, a family court might order a DNA test.

For legal purposes, the testing must be performed by a certified facility like a health department, hospital or clinic that follows chain of custody procedures. The test is noninvasive. A swab rubbed inside a person's cheek collects cells for the test. Technicians will analyze the samples twice, and a qualified lab director will review the results for accuracy of procedure.

Prenups do not mean that people are planning to divorce

Some Californians are taken aback when their fiancés tell them that they want to draft prenuptial agreements. However, having one may actually be smart for both parties for multiple reasons if it is drafted and negotiated correctly.

Sugggesting a prenuptial agreement does not necessarily mean that a person is planning for a marriage to end before it has even begun. Many couples use these types of agreements to clearly define and clarify the roles and responsibilities of each party during the marriage, which may help them to avoid conflicts that might otherwise occur. Prenuptial agreements also are a good way for people to learn about each other's finances because they must fully disclose their assets and debts during their discussions.

How mediation differs from litigation

California couples who are getting a divorce might want to consider mediation over litigation. There could be a number of advantages to this more civil approach. For example, litigation may be more time consuming and expensive. Furthermore, once a decision is made by the judge during litigation, there is usually little recourse for changing it. However, control is in the hands of the couple during mediation.

In mediation, a neutral third party, who may be a social worker, a mental health worker or in some other field, sits down with the couple to talk about their conflict. With the mediator's help, the couple tries to reach a resolution. The spouses may or may not have their attorneys present. There may be an advantage in having legal counsel available in that the attorney might be able to make suggestions. A party might also want to have an attorney review any agreements from mediation before they are signed.

Working together to reach a child custody agreement

When California parents who are going through a divorce are trying to resolve child custody dispute, they have options available other than having a judge make a decision after a trial. These include informal negotiations and alternate dispute resolution proceedings. Both of these options allow the parents to work together, meaning they are more likely to come to an agreement that benefits the entire family.

Parents can reach a settlement through informal negotiations by either talking out the dispute themselves or working with their respective attorneys. The parents may negotiate a settlement among themselves before having the attorneys look over the agreement before submitting it to the court.

Parents and experts increasingly lean toward joint custody

The best interests of children in California are generally represented by shared parenting and joint physical custody when their parents divorce, according to a growing body of research and expert opinion on child development. Such an arrangement can help to ensure that the parents have roughly an equal amount time with their children on an ongoing and regular basis.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed that children living in shared parenting arrangements had significantly improved health outcomes over those in sole custody arrangements duein part to lowered stress levels. Dozens of respected professionals in the fields of family law and child development have also underscored the importance of shared parenting. Children in joint custody arrangements know that they have not lost either parent and feel improved senses of safety and security. This supports improved outcomes and is generally in the best interests of the child, absent situations of abuse or unfit parenting.

Methods for making a child support agreement

California parents who have minor children and who are ending their marriage might wonder if there is an alternative to going to court and having a judge make a decision about child support. There are a number of ways that parents may be able to make this decision instead. One option is for them to negotiate informally, with or without the help of their respective lawyers.

Some alternative dispute resolution processes allow parents to become involved in settling differences and reaching a solution. In mediation and collaborative law, parents may fully participate in a conflict resolution process that seeks to avoid the adversarial approach of litigation and instead focuses on reaching a compromise that satisfies both parties. Arbitration is less common in family law, but when it is used, it involves a third party listening to both sides and making a decision.

Nesting as an alternative child custody arrangement

Although a divorce can be difficult for California parents, the process can also be very hard for the children. especially if there are many changes to their family suddenly occurring. In the past, the children usually remained with their mother and saw their father every weekend or every other weekend. However, some alternative child custody arrangements are becoming more popular.

One of the child custody arrangements that may work for some families is nesting. For this arrangement, the children stay in the family home and the parents take turns staying with the children. Some families will rent a nearby house or apartment where the other parent can stay when he or she does not have custody. The advantages to this type of arrangement are numerous. Both parents have the ability to maintain strong relationships with the children and the children do not feel as if they have to pack up and move every week or so.

How child support is collected and paid

Custodial parents in California might wonder how child support is collected and distributed in the state. Like other states, California has a central child support unit that is responsible for collecting and distributing child support for certain types of cases.

The central child support office is responsible for collecting and distributing child support in all Title IV-D cases as well as in non-Title IV-D cases in which there are income withholding orders. A Title IV-D case is one in which the custodial parent is receiving benefits under the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program. In those cases, the state is allowed to reimburse itself for the money it pays in TANF and Medicaid benefits up to the full amount of the child support.

How a child's opinion influences custody

Whether divorcing California parents figure out child custody matters on their own or a judge decides, their children sometimes have different ideas. Depending on a child's age and maturity level, he or she may have the opportunity to provide input about a living situation to the court.

If parents cannot reach a decision about child custody, a judge will consider several factors when assigning physical custody. A child's wishes are only one of these factors, and the weight a child's statement holds can vary. Courts want to make sure that a child or teen is staying with a responsible adult, and a judge may disregard a minor's desires if it seems like the young person just wants to live with one parent because they are more lenient about rules.

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