August - Following devastating budget cuts, which forced the closure of 48 courthouses and eliminated the Los Angeles County Superior Dependency Court’s Mediation program, faced with devastating recidivism, (then Referee) Marilyn Mordetzky took it upon herself to establish a new dependency mediation program.
October - Mediators Randy Drew and Stacey Lisk were recruited by Marilyn at a Ken Cloke event. When we began, we were only mediating Exit Orders. These are 'Parenting Plans' (visitation agreements). More detailed and durable Exit Orders are important, because the courtrooms, attorneys, and foster care system are overwhelmed, largely due to recidivism which can become generational, and because without a customized, detailed Parenting Agreement that matches coparents’ lives and children’s needs, parental-conflict and return to the juvenile justice system may be all some children ever know.
2015 Was our first full year; the three of us mediated an estimated 100 cases.
Having complete autonomy to create our own processes and agreements set a chain of events into motion that, at the time, no one predicted. Not knowing any better, we assumed that the standard was: Every case would provide benefits to the court, attorneys, and especially the coparenting families. Based on our providential ignorance, our goal was a 100% agreement rate, and this goal forced bold innovations.
An example of an early innovations was the ‘Stipulated Agreement’. Previously, parents who were sent to mediation with unclear parameters were sent back to court, and the family would need to miss more work and school, for a return to dependency court. Additionally, the entire courtroom (judge, attorneys, staff) could be tied-up for a day or more for a trial, which caused a chain reaction of more families’ cases being delayed.
A stipulated agreement has all the details such as exchanges, transportation, schedule, and holiday schedule agreed to, with a request for the court to determine a single parameter such as monitored or unmonitored parenting time.
A Supervising Attorney for the Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers remarked, “I couldn’t believe my eyes. In all my years as a dependency lawyer, I have never seen that before.