What is mediation?
Mediation helps people decide, on their own, the best solutions to issues for themselves. Mediators help parents talk to each other to find new ways to resolve their issues. Mediators are neutral; they do not favor either side; they do not give legal advice; and, they do not decide the dispute. The parents, together, resolve their differences in a fair, open, and confidential way.
Is a mediation session confidential? Doesn’t the mediator have to file something with the Court? Does the mediator tell the Court what went on in the mediation sessions?
Unlike Court proceedings, the mediation is confidential. The mediator only files reports with the Court stating that a mediation session occurred and whether or not any agreements were made between the parties. The mediator cannot tell the Court (or anyone else, for that matter) what went on in the mediation sessions. However, the mediator is required by law to report certain actions or threats of actions (such as child abuse) to the appropriate authorities.
How do I choose a mediator?
A: In general, you choose your mediator from a list provided by the Court Clerk. Each of the mediators on the list received training in mediating family disputes and several of the mediators received specialized training in mediating cases where there is the presence or threat of domestic violence. If domestic violence is present in your family, you need to tell the Court. The victims of domestic violence are not required to go to mediation, but if they go, victims have certain rights in the mediation. Your lawyer or a local victims’ rights organization will have details.
How much does mediation cost?
The cost of mediation varies with location, but generally court ordered mediation costs about $50 per hour to be divided by the couple.
What if I can’t afford to pay for mediation?
Free (pro bono) mediation is available for those couples that are able to meet the indigence requirement of the Court. The Court Clerk will give you the information necessary to contact the pro bono mediator. For those parents who do not meet the indigence requirement but do not have enough income to pay full fees for a mediator, the Court may, upon motion by one or both of the parties, order the mediation to occur at a reduced fee to one or both parties. Also, some mediators (but not all) offer a “sliding scale” fee that is based on the income of the couple. The less a couple has in income, the lower the fee. You will need to talk to your mediator about payment for the mediation.
Do I have to go to mediation?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you are not required to go to mediation. Also, if you can show the Court that you have a good reason for not attending mediation, then you may not be required to go. If the Court orders mediation, the parties are required to attend mediation.
What happens if I don’t have a good reason and I don’t go to mediation?
The Court may hold you in Contempt if you do not attend an ordered mediation without good reason that is approved by the Court. Also, the Court may use your absence from mediation as a factor in determining final form of the Permanent Parenting Plan.
Will the mediation deal only with parenting issues?
Usually, no. In most orders for mediation, the Court allows the parties and the mediator to try to resolve the other issues after agreeing to a Parenting Plan. The other issues may include such things as who gets the house, who gets what from which retirement plan, and so forth.
If my spouse and I reach an agreement, who does the paperwork?
If the parties have attorneys, then the attorneys prepare the paperwork necessary for filing with the Court. If there are no attorneys, the mediator may prepare a “Memorandum of Understanding” for the parties to sign. This Memorandum shows that the parties have agreed to certain things in their divorce and they expect those things to be made a part of their divorce decree. If there are no attorneys involved in the divorce, it is recommended that the parties have an attorney look over the Memorandum to make sure that all of the areas that need to be covered are covered.
If you don’t have an attorney, you should go over a copy of a Parenting Plan with the mediator and your spouse to make sure that you have covered everything. If you both agree on everything in the Plan, then you must reduce that Plan to a formal Order and that Order must be submitted to the Court for approval.
What if my spouse and I reach an agreement about some of the issues but not about all of them?
You can submit a partial Parenting Plan with a notation where there is disagreement. The parts of the Parenting Plan that have been agreed to will usually be incorporated into the final Permanent Parenting Plan by the Court and the areas of disagreement will be decided by the Court. There may be a Settlement Conference scheduled to try to resolve the remaining issues or the Court itself may decide the issues at trial.
Do I have to go to mediation if I am the victim of domestic abuse?
No, victims of domestic violence are not required to attend mediation. However, if you wish to go to mediation, certain steps must be followed: (1) you must agree to the mediation; (2) you have the right to have an advocate (another person who is not your attorney) present during the mediation; and, (3) you have the right to have a mediator specially trained in domestic violence. In addition, your attorney will be able to attend the mediations.