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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Family Law Mediation: When Time Is Not on Your Side

Faculty: The Honorable Irwin Joseph and Dr. Donald Saposnek
*Approved for 17 hours of Specialization Credits for Certified Family Law Specialists
*Approved for 8 hours of Children's Counsel Credits per CRC 5.242(d)

To request reasonable accommodations for disabilities please contact the Malibu office at (310)506-6500 ex. 6500 or student.accessibility@pepperdine.edu. Or contact Lori Rushford at lori.rushford@pepperdine.edu or (310)568-6342.

This highly interactive, interdisciplinary training (taught by a judge and a psychologist) is designed for judicial officers, private counsel, staff attorneys in courts, custody evaluators, psychologists, and others who wish to learn and improve their skills in mediating family law conflicts. Special emphasis is placed on resolving disputes when there is limited time and when there are limited resources available.  After exploring an overview of core models and principles of mediation and successful techniques, participants will learn a range of specific dispute resolution strategies available through mediating. Interspersed within discussion and role-plays are presentations of critical child development research, essential perspectives on the psychology and dynamics of divorce, the ways in which high levels of conflict and emotions in family law cases present special problems, and hidden opportunities for dispute resolution, as well as other practical information.

What you will learn:

  • An overview of core mediation principles
  • Mediating as an attorney, therapist, judicial officer, facilitator, or judge pro tem
  • Managing implicit power imbalances
  • The psychology and dynamics of high-conflict divorce
  • Specific mediation models appropriate to your jurisdiction
  • The anatomy of custody disputes
  • Gate-keeping, attachment, and alienation
  • Mediating personal property, custody, and visitation issue
  • Getting past the obstacles to stipulations
  • Mediating cases involving domestic violence
  • Special problems:  self-represented litigants, the present economy, and parents who hardly know one another
  • Canons, ethics, obligations, and red flags



The Honorable Irwin Joseph (retired) provides private mediation, arbitration, and private judging services in Northern California. Before retirement, he served as a Superior Court commissioner in Santa Clara County and in Santa Cruz County for almost 15 years. His bench experience included family, civil, and criminal assignments. During his eight years in the family law division, he heard dissolution, custody, support, paternity, and domestic violence matters. He created the Judicially Supervised Settlement Conference (Mediation) program and the Early Neutral Evaluation Program for Family Court.  He co-taught mediation skills to judges in Singapore at several recent Straus trainings. He has mediated thousands of conflicts since 1995. He was a faculty member of the Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), and a member of the Elkins Family Law Task Force. He is a graduate of the University of La Verne College of Law and UCLA. He co-created this class in 2009 for those who wish to improve mediation skills in this difficult and contentious area of the law.


Donald T. Saposnek, Ph.D. is a practicing clinical-child psychologist and child custody mediator, and a family therapist for over 45 years, and he is a national and international trainer of mediation and child development, most recently presenting trainings to judges and lawyers in Singapore. He is author of the classic book, Mediating Child Custody Disputes: A Strategic Approach, and coauthor of Splitting America: How Politicians, Super PACS and the News Media Mirror High-Conflict Divorce. He has mediated over 5,000 custody disputes since 1977, managed the Santa Cruz County Family Court Services for 17 years, and has published extensively in the professional literature on mediation, child custody, and child psychology. He has been teaching on the psychology faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz since 1977, is Editor-in-Chief of publications for the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, and serves on the editorial boards of numerous publishing houses and several international journals on conflict resolution.