In Los Angeles County, prior to the Court making orders for Child Custody and Visitation, the parties are required to attend mediation. The proper term for this mediation is Conciliation Court where the parties meet with a MFT to discuss parenting plans in an effort to reach an agreement which is memorialized into a writing and submitted to the Court. The Court has recently inserted language in the Conciliation Court Agreement form to the effect that it now reads on page one “…This agreement regarding child custody and visitation is a final custody and visitation order…The parties understand and agree that this order may be modified in the future only upon…[showing] a significant change in circumstances”. Most, if not all, litigants, who are, in effect self-represented when appearing in Conciliation Court, have neither any knowledge nor the wherewithal to inquire of what the paragraph means and/or entails. The question becomes how an Evaluator (for lack of knowledge of the proper honorific) can explain to litigants what, in effect and in fact, amounts to legal advice? It further appears that if one does not file an Objection to any Conciliation Court Agreement within ten days following execution thereof, one must file a RFO to strike or set aside said “Agreement”. While I can understand the thinking that went into the decision to include such language, I also believe that such thinking probably did not include canvassing Family Law Litigation Attorneys for their thoughts about the issue prior to implementation, or not, as the case may be. I can strongly discourage parents from signing such agreements as drafted as a Stipulation and Order can be drafted based on the parties agreement that does not include this language, however, what about the mass number of self-represented litigants that have no clue about the subject paragraph and its’ long-term meaning? How does a non-lawyer explain the ramifications of the meaning of the phrase “significant change in circumstances”? At the Law Office of Paul A. Eads, we have your best interest in mind and strongly encourage parents thinking of signing such agreement to contact use.
What are the new developments to Los Angeles County Conciliation Court Agreement for parents to be aware of?