History of 'SoCal' Family Mediation

2104

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

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. 

2016

  •  2106 -  We started keeping detailed statistics. We mediated for 238 coparents & guardians, and helped 228 of them create agreements (95.8%). 
  • Commissioner Mordetzky went back to the bench; and Stacey and Randy continued to grow and evolve the program.  
  • January - Commissioner Mordetzky and Lisa Klerman established our USC partnership, whereby qualifying law school students studying with 'Professor' Mordetzky and with the prerequisite requirements, in the Spring, comediate with Senior Volunteer Mediators.
  • March - We became ‘Southern California Family Mediation’, by registering the name with the state of California. The dependency mediation program, founded by Commissioner Mordetzky, now had it’s own identity, established by Randy & Stacey.
  • Midyear - We established SoCal’s online presence, and launched our self-service, online appointment-booking system for the courtrooms and attorneys.
  • October - We opened up the program to additional Volunteer Mediators, for the first time. Our inaugural class of Mediators, Marvin Whistler, Victoria Gray, Maria Brinson-Sampson, Alik Segal, and Leyla Balakhane, completed 55 hours of combined classroom and practical training, taught by Commissioner/Professor Mordetzky, Randy, and Stacey. 
  • November - Foster Care Counts became our pro-bono fiscal sponsor, meaning they pass 100% of all donation through to us (with no administration fees), and provide a Donor Acknowledgement for the donor’s tax records. 

2017

  • In 2017, SoCal’s elite team of seven mediators served 342 coparents & guardians, and helped 326 of them create agreements (95.3%). 
  • January / April - Our second year partnering with USC, where students  (with prerequisite requirements) comediate with Senior Volunteer Mediators.
  • We began mediating ‘Open Case’ for when coparents are not yet exiting the dependency system but need help creating a temporary parenting plan. 
  • We also added ‘Contested Adoptions’ to our service offerings. Contested Adoption mediations are both technically and emotionally challenging, sometimes taking two full days to resolve. We mediated 12 contested adoptions, and achieved 12 agreements.
  • October / December - 11 new Volunteer Mediators, Lynette Kim, Aaron Larks Stanford, Candace Jones, Essie Martinkovsky, Jean Kling, Leslie Kushner, Milan Slama, Nellie Tillman, Pam Perry, Sarah English, and Ted Andrews completed the 2nd annual Child Dependency Mediation Training, 72 hours.  Congratulations and welcome!
  • November - We began conducting ‘front end’ mediations, and the “Mediated Settlement Conference” was born. These are mediations, between parents, or between parents and the County Counsel, in conjunction with social workers. For the first time, conflict specialists have opportunities to influence a parent’s journey through the dependency/juvenile justice system, from beginning to end.

2018

  • SoCal’s elite team has grown to 18 Volunteer Mediators.
  • January / April – The USC partnership has expanded to year-round, with 2nd & 3rd year law school students comediating in the Spring, and LLM and Master’s in ADR students comediating in the Fall.
  • Four Mediators from our inagural class were promoted to Supervising Mediators. Congratulations and Thank You to Supervising Mediators: Marvin Whistler, Alik Segal, Leyla Balakhane, and Maria Brinson-Sampson. 
  • Victoria Gray has joined Ken Cloke, Lisa Klerman, and Jack Goetz on our esteemed Advisory Board.
  • We are now serving all 25 Los Angeles County Dependency courtrooms, at both the Edmund D. Edelman Courthouse in Monterey Park, and the Alfred J. McCourtney Juvenile Justice Center in the Antelope Valley.
  • May - Southern California Family Mediation Inc. is now a corporation, registered with the state of California, and our federal nonprofit application is under way.