Mediation for Child Custody & Child Support

Parent Q&A

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  • If you’ve attended a session with your (ex) spouse during your divorce, would you pls share your experience and any overall advice how to prepare and conduct oneself ?  We’ve a session early next week with Melinda Morris. I’d be so grateful for any insights. Didn’t see any recent posts. 

    Specifically, how do I best get the mediator to support an ADHD evaluation for my 9 yo despite my ex’s strong objection to consent?  This is despite recommendation by child’s psychologist (last Fall), pediatrician and teachers. I have all this in writing from above ready to share. Both child psychologist and I suspect my child has a mild form given challenges with impulse control and some executive functions. I’d like to know and support my bright child with ways to deal with any learning differences to fulfill potential — teachers consistently describe as “bright, creative thinker, strong leadership skills” yet needs more reminders than classmates on impulse control and organizing work. No academic impairment now yet I’m concerned for future demands of middle school and complexity of work.  My ex is a narcissist; hence the divorce. His reasons for withholding consent: He doesn’t trust me with the results of the evaluation, accuses that I “would use it against” our child and wants me to “promise you won’t tell our child.”  Suspect all this triggering his insecurity and shame around own (non- ADHD) learning difference. I’m empathetic yet this is not about him, but what’s best for our child. I understand the court can order this, yet I wish to settle our divorce out of court and not escalate already growing animosity between us. 

    Thank you for advice if you’ve been thru a session, especially if you’re open to my contact before my appt early next week. 


    I have vast experience I from my own custody case and from helping many friends over the past twenty years prepare for their mediations and court based on my and their experiences. I’d be happy to speak with you. Every mediator is different. Some will take charge and bulldoze you, others seem to just take in the info from both sides and then make a recommendation report based on that. Whatever the two of you don’t agree upon in mediation goes before the judge, so know that you don’t have to agree to anything “in” mediation, but also know that how you conduct yourself can effect how the mediator judges you and influences their recommendation, which the judge generally will abide by because the judge didn’t spend an hour with you and relies on the mediator to know your case more intimately. Anything you physically bring to mediation should be things that were already filed in court, and if not, bring copies for your ex too. The mediator shouldn’t accept anything from you that the ex hasn’t also seen. Be sure the mediator has actually read the case file before beginning (ask this up front, you’d be surprised how many mediators take a moment right then and there to speed read because they haven’t). Don’t interrupt, allow the mediator to run the session and ask permission to speak, be super polite, etc. Practice before heading into mediation by acting out the session with a friend, and being ready to easily counteract your ex’s arguments. Insert the words “best interest of the child” where possible, as this is paramount, or supposed to be, when deciding custody matters. Happy to help further if you’d like to get in touch. 

    I went through child custody mediation. I recommend being prepared not to react emotionally to your ex's lies, personal attacks or accusations during the session, and firmly resist getting dragged into unproductive arguments that are just going to erode your credibility. Meditation and visualization exercises help. Keep calm and keep steering the focus back to your child's best interests. I.e., this is not about you or your ex, it's about best supporting your child's educational and developmental needs. It sounds like you have plenty of documented support from experts.


    I did Alameda County Family Court Custody Mediation. I was working with a lawyer and she prepped me about what to say and share. It was painful on many levels but required. These Mediators are trained professionals who want the best for out kids AND they are spread so thin with unbelievable workloads. There was lots of he said she said, of course. If you have reports from teachers and psychologists then that is hugely on your side. Bring documents! They help a lot. I had the same issue - ex denying our kiddo’s ADHD, Trauma, anxiety. The document stated what we both said then recommendations were made. Although my lawyer was pleased, I felt the report was rushed and didn’t quite get the full picture.  Full of typos and some incorrect facts. 
    I have been able to pursue the help my kiddo needed. 
    I wish you the best in your process! Peace!

  • Custody Mediator

    (2 replies)

    Hi there,

    Looking for a mediator in Oakland/Berkeley to help us come to resolution on some custody issues.  The recommendations here already are many years old....

    We used Eva Herzer and found her to be very skilled, experienced and fair.

    While I don't have a mediator I can recommend in Oakland/Berkeley, I'm working with one I love in SF and I believe\ shehas an office in the East Bay and works with the East Bay Collaborative Group.  Her name is Arlene Konstant (

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Need fair, good custody mediator for evaluation

April 2015

I am unfortunately in the middle of a very nasty divorce from a 2-year marriage with a narcissistic man who has been demanding 50/50 custodial time with our toddler boys. I have been the primary caregiver since birth. We recently had a custody hearing and the judge maintained the status quo in a temporary order, more or less leaving the majority of physical custody to me. However, in the hearing my husband demanded a child custody evaluation and hearing in 3 months to try to reverse the decision. I would appreciate any recommendations for child custody mediators/evaluations who understand what is in the best interests of young children (under 2 years age) and won't viscerally recommend an equal timeshare at this age. anon

I strongly recommend Dr. Christine Pigeon. She is a seasoned mediator and evaluator who understands the needs of small children. She is able to put the children first and is very perceptive when dealing with narcissists. Been there

Is there a reason why your kids won't be safe with your ex? If not, I suggest agreeing to a custody arrangement that works for him. You are going to spend a fortune fighting it and you probably won't get all that you want. If the guy is a good dad, he should have equal access to the kids eventually. There is a question about when that should start. You could probably negotiate an arrangement where he doesn't get 50/50 but gets a real amount of time each week (e.g., every other weekend, one or two overnights during the week). 50/50 is practically difficult to schedule but he should get a reasonable amount of time.

I used to be a divorce attorney. I can tell you that fighting a divorce for years is emotionally and financially devastating. Fighting over custody is terrible. You say that he's a narcissist but can you prove that? Will his narcissism make him an unsafe parent? The fact that you might be a better parent than him isn't really relevant. What's important is whether the kids will be okay with him. Remember that narcissists usually come across really well to people who only deal with them for a short time. He might charm the evaluator and convince that person that you are unfit. Are you ready to have all of your flaws exposed?

I would think long and hard about why you are objecting to a reasonable custody arrangement and how likely you are to prevail. California courts want kids to have relationships with both of their parents. 50/50 might be too much (for example, if you live far apart from each other it may not be possible to get them to school with that kind of arrangement) but I sure would be generous with your offer and wouldn't try to limit his access to the kids in a way that doesn't make sense. Been there, it's awful

Mediator for complicated custody situation

Oct 2007

I'm looking for someone (not sure if this is therapy or legal or both) who can work with my ex, myself, and my two daughters to help us talk through and resolve a complicated custody situation. Preferably in Marin, though northwest East Bay would be okay as well. My ex has moved to Oakland and I'm in Marin, where my daughters, ages 12 and 15, go to school. My daughters miss their father terribly but are having a really hard time spending much time at his house because it is so far away. They constantly feel like they have to choose between seeing him and missing out on social experiences with their friends. Right now they are supposed to spend two weekends a month in Oakland, but conflicts are constantly coming up because they are very busy and their activities and friends are all in Marin. He would like more weekend custodial time with them but doesn't seem to understand the impact his choice of location is having. (Weeknight overnights are impossible because they start school early.) I've suggested more weeknight time (dinners, etc.) but he is reluctant. I'm stressed to the max because I have them most of the time, don't receive much child support, and I'm the one they talk to when they don't want to go to Oakland yet want to see their dad. They have trouble talking to him because he has left for a long period in the past and that made them feel vulnerable and afraid of upsetting him. I guess what I really want is a chance for them to say how they feel comfortably and him to really be able to hear it. (And me too, if there are things they need to say to me.) Then I'd like someone who can help us be creative in coming up with a solution; I feel like there must be options we're not seeing. Of course we all wish he'd move back over to Marin, but he seems to have personal reasons not to do that. Sign me stressed single mom

East Bay Community Mediation offers low cost mediation. I've volunteered there before, and the mediators are good. mediator

Mediator for custody issues

Sept 2006

Can anyone recommend a compassionate mediator in San Francisco? My partner and I are not married, but do have a child and would like somebody to help make this as smooth a transition as possible. Thanks Anonymous

I recommend two mediators who have offices in SF. It really depends on the style of mediator you're looking for.

If you want someone who is not only expert in mediaiton, but is a wonderful lawyer in the family law area (a 2006 Super-Lawyer acutally), then David Fink is a great choice. And don't mistake an accumen in the law for being heartless or anything. He is very adept at dealing with people. (415) 399-8380, david[at]

The other mediator in SF that I recommend is Larry Rosen. He has a solely non-adversarial practice, and takes a rich, expansive view of his role as a divorce mediator. His website has detailed information on his practice. (415) 356-9834, larry[at],

David and Larry are both gifted mediators, and their approaches are equally valid, so it merely depends on you and your spouse's style-preference Andrea M. Eichorn, JD (mediator)

She's not in SF, but Edith Kelly Politis is a very knowledgable, caring and compassionate mediator. Her office is in San Rafael. Edith was very helpful when my husband and I needed assistance in creating a marital planning agreement. Because I had met her before my husband did, she recommended a wonderful colleague to work with us on the agreement (I don't think he's still practicing, but he did a great job). Edith reviewed the agreement for me and I felt that she was very instrumental in helping us get our marriage off to a good start. She is a kind, intelligent and very solid person who genuinely cares about helping people. More information is on her website: Phone: (415) 453-3055 Best of luck, Anne

Low-cost mediation for child support agreement

Feb 2003

Does anyone know of an organization providing no or low cost mediation services to families for assistance in reaching a child support agreement with her former partner.? I've checked the website and found no information for SF. Thanks for your recommendations. Andrea

For the person looking for a mediator. In Oakland there is a group called Conciliation Forums of Oakland 510-763-2117. In Berkeley there is Berkeley Dispute Resolution Services. In SF there is a group called Community Panels(I think that is the name). They are all low cost mediation services that can help you. kate

Family Court Services, part of the court system in every county, has mediators who can help with this, though their time is limited because their caseloads are quite high. The Family Law Facilitator's Office has paraprofessionals who help those who are representing themselves, and might be able to suggest some referrals. Jewish Family and Children's Services in SF has also offered some mediation in the past and might still do so. Bay Area Children First also offers a variety of services for separating parents on a sliding scale. Susanna

Mediator to help work out child support issues

March 2000

Could people please recommend good mediators in the East Bay. Some of the issues I need to work out with my son's father relate to payment of school fees, paying for health insurance and a possible move. I am interested in both counselor type mediators and mediators who are attorneys. Names of male mediators would be appreciated especially. Thank you.

I would recommend Phillip Ziegler with Turning Point Mediation. He also works as a MFCC in Oakland. The # is 510-658-5887. Pat

I saw a mediator with my partner who was fairly good. His name is K'siel, and he is very down to earth - easy to get along with. He has a background in labor negotiations. Is located in north oakland. his email is ksiel at earthlink dot net chinnock

I can recommend Sterling Newberry, he is not an attorney, but is a good mediator. You can reach him at (510) 526-3443 or redwing AT Good luck!

I can recommend Phillip Ziegler for divorce mediation. Not sure of the cost, but less than going the attorney route. He is also an MFCC and does counseling with couples, so it's nice to see someone with those skills as well as the legal. His office is in Oakland off of Grand Ave and the phone # is 658-5887. Good Luck!