Can Mediation Negotiations be Used as Evidence in Court?

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method where the parties privately work toward a fair compromise on certain legal issues. Mediation is a useful tool for resolving many family law cases, include divorces. Mediation proceedings are supervised by a neutral third party—the mediator—who does not have the power to issue binding legal decisions and orders. Instead, the mediator facilitates communication and understanding between the parties who retain control over the decision making process.

In California, mediation is typically a private, informal proceeding. The participants are encouraged to discuss issues openly and be forthcoming about their concerns. However, courts can also require mediation of custody and visitation issues. This is known as court-mandated mediation.

Evidentiary Rules Against Admission of Mediation Negotiations

Under California Evidence Code § 1119, statements or admissions—written or oral—“made for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation or a mediation consultation” is not admissible in court.

Furthermore, the court may not order the disclosure of such statements or admissions. The protections of mediation talks under § 1119 broadly apply to other legal proceedings, including arbitration, administrative adjudication, civil litigation, and other noncriminal proceedings. Section 1119 requires all mediation communications to remain confidential.

Similarly, California Evidence Code § 1152 prohibits the admission of “evidence that a person has, in compromise or from humanitarian motives, furnished or offered or promised to furnish money or any other thing…to another who has sustained…loss or damage…”

Although these protections generally apply to cases beyond the practice of family law, they are particularly relevant to family law matters such as divorce and child custody. The public policy that drives these evidentiary protections encourages the use of private settlements and mediation as alternative forms of dispute resolution. California law recognizes the importance of mediation and settlement negotiations in preventing costly, drawn-out legal battles between people while helping courts with backlogged dockets.

Without these evidentiary protections, the parties in a divorce or other family law case would be deterred from being open and forthcoming during mediation negotiations. The parties would be inclined to carefully craft all communications while vigilantly looking for slip-ups from the other party. Under those circumstances, the stifled interactions between the parties would overshadow any benefit mediation would otherwise have provided.

Looking for Quality Advice? Look no Further than Moshtael Family Law

At Moshtael Family Law, our attorneys have years of invaluable experience with various family law issues. Our legal team is committed to helping you find a just and fair solution to your family law issues. However, if cooperation and mutual compromise are unreasonable, given your history with the other party, we are prepared to strenuously advocate for your legal rights and interests.

To learn more about how Moshtael Family Law can help you, call our office at (714) 909-2561 or visit us online today.