Mediation Overview

What is mediation?

Mediation is a problem-solving process, usually a series of non-binding conferences, where people can confidentially discuss issues with the assistance of a person trained to help them communicate and negotiate effectively. Our court system has been using mediation for more than ten years to help families resolve disputes.

Why is mediation good for families?

Parents like mediation to work out parenting issues because it's more informal than court. Parents get to do most of the talking and are in control about what they agree upon. Mediators realize that children are precious and that "splitting the baby" is rarely satisfying to parents. Mediators helps parents evaluate their ideas, think of other options that may not have occurred to them, and to help each parent meet as many of their needs and concerns as possible. Parents who commit to a plan through mediation are twice as likely to comply with it and less likely to rely on the courts to resolve parenting disputes.

Does mediation involve arguing?

The mediation process is respectful of persons and their ideas. Mediation respects a persons right to disagree and still be able to discuss issues that are important to each person. The mediator works to reduce stress and hostility by keeping discussions business-like. Mediation is "hard on the issues and easy on the people." In other words, it helps people get to the "heart" of the issues without personal attacks. When people are worried about losing ground they grab at anything to try to get a foothold. Frequently people latch on to an artificial position because they do not know what else to do. Mediators are trained to identify what is really at issue and put it on the table in a way both parents can discuss it.

How does mediation take place?

The most effective and time-efficient way of mediating is for people to meet together face-to-face with the mediator in a neutral location. Mediators may also talk privately with each person. This is called "caucusing." Some people caucus for most of the mediation with the mediator going back and forth between parents. This is more time consuming and people lose the benefit of hearing what the other person is saying. Caucus is also used for short individual meetings with each parent during mediation. Telephone mediation can be arranged when a parent is unable to attend in person. Again, this is slower and less effective. Family mediators prefer to meet face to face if at all possible. Sometimes people will be more comfortable coming to mediation if they have the support of others. For example, a parent may arrange for their attorney to attend the session or to be available by telephone for consultation. A family member or friend may come to the meeting place and wait outside for moral support. Mediation is intended for the use of parents to talk to each other. If attorneys attend a session, they play a support role. Mediators are usually open to allowing others to participate in the mediation only after reviewing the process with the parents and having them both agree on how best to handle it.

Is mediation required?

Over the past ten years mediation has been very helpful for families going through divorce and custody disputes in Clay County. Since 2000, a local court rule requires parents to attempt mediation before a contested hearing will be held on custody or parent access issues. All cases referred to mediation by the court are screened for safety concerns. The court may waive mediation when it is not appropriate.

What does mediation cost?

The cost of mediation arranged with a private mediation varies depending on the training and experience of the mediator. Rates of $100-200 per hour are common. Some community mediation programs charge on a sliding scale. Court services has a program to make mediation more affordable for families when either parent has annual income under $30,000. Each parent pays on a sliding scale based on their own income. Rates range from $0-50 per hour per parent.

What outcomes can I expect if I mediate?

There is a 70 % chance you will reach an agreement on some or all issues through court ordered mediation. The likelihood of agreement is higher for people who mediate voluntarily. A parenting plan crafted by parents in mediation will be customized for you and your children. Parents only commit to a plan they believe they can live with. As a result, parents who agree on a plan are twice as likely to follow the plan. They tend to come back to court less frequently than parents who had decisions made by the court. Parent agreements are usually approved by the court. The stress and expense of a contested court hearing is avoided. The biggest beneficiaries of mediation, however, are your children. Mediation focuses on what is best for your children. When parents develop a coordinated parenting plan for children, they more easily adjust to life after divorce and have fewer of the problems that children of divorce may experience.