What is mediation?
Mediation is a process where an impartial third person, known as a mediator is hired by the parties to help them move toward an agreement about co-parenting issues (custody and visitation). Child custody mediation gives parents a chance to resolve disagreements about a parenting plan for their children. The mediator does not take sides, is not the judge and does not make decisions about what is best for your child(ren). Instead, the mediator helps each person listen to the other’s perspective, communicate about your interests and needs, focus on the needs of your child(ren) and reach a mutually agreeable plan for co-parenting.
- Mediation is confidential and involves both parents meeting one or more times with a court approved mediator.
- Each party has an equal role in decision-making during the mediation process.
- As a neutral party, the mediator works with the parents to find areas of agreement for a parenting plan.
- Agreements reached are drafted by the mediator and provided to the parents and/or attorneys.
- Those agreements will need to be entered properly in the court file and finalized by an order by the judge.
Who are the mediators?
A mediator is an impartial person who has been specially trained to assist in resolving custody disputes. The Idaho Supreme Court maintains a roster of mediators who meet minimum standards for training. This roster is available from Family Court Services, or online at www.isc.idaho.gov/problem-solving/child-custody-mediator/search.
Why do courts order mediation?
A working, mutual agreement between parents is usually preferable to a court imposed one. Courts require that all parties ordered to mediation, shall participate in good faith. Parents who work together, act responsibly, minimize costs in time and money, and reduce the stress on everyone involved, including, most importantly, the child. Resolving what is best for your child by going to trial should be a last resort, and often indicates a failure by one or both parents. Mediation is your opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive plan for the long-term health of your family.
What does it cost?
The cost of mediation will vary from mediator to mediator. However, when looking at that cost it is important for each party to compare the cost of 2-6 hours of mediation with the often devastating costs both financial and emotional of continued legal proceedings. Money that could be spent on improving the lives of your children with activities, vacations and college educations is spent instead on pretrial motions, court conferences, depositions and discovery, custody evaluations, trial and witness preparation, the actual trial, and possible appeal if you lose. Family Court Services may be able to assist parents who have attended Focus on Children with the cost of mediation, if qualified based on income and available funds. An application for funding can be downloaded from the Resources and Links tab.
When is mediation not appropriate?
Most cases are appropriate for mediation. However, a case may not be appropriate for mediation. If you do not feel safe around the other parent, mediation may not be appropriate without a specially trained mediator.
Where does my attorney fit in?
Your attorney can help prepare you for a positive mediation experience. By law, attorneys cannot be present during custody mediation sessions unless the mediator requests that they be there. However, you have the right to have your attorney review any agreement you reach, prior to signing.
What does it take to successfully reach an agreement?
Hard work, patience, an open mind, and a willingness to listen carefully to the mediator will help lead to successfully reaching an agreement. Often, situations that seem hopeless are resolved in mediation. A commitment of your time and effort are needed to reach that goal.
What happens after we reach an agreement?
Your agreement will be submitted to the court attached to other forms, as required by law. If all issues in your case are resolved in your agreement, no further court proceedings are generally necessary. If only some of the issues are resolved by agreement, additional steps in the court process may be needed. When your agreement is submitted, the judge will review it for enforceability and the best interests of your child(ren).
Prepare for the appointment!
Mediation can be a long process but it holds many benefits for you and your children. When ordered to go to mediation it is important to prepare for the appointment. This will save both money and heartache for your family.
Brainstorm and think about a possible Parenting Plan that will work for you and the other parent and most importantly, a plan that will work for your child(ren).