What is Family Court Mediation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Family court mediation is a process in which separating parents attempt to work out an agreement about the care of their children with the assistance of a mediator. Mediation may be ordered by the court if parents cannot reach an agreement and in areas where mediation is offered, people are often required to go through mediation before they can litigate to resolve disputes. The goal of family court mediation is to resolve conflict as smoothly as possible without involving the court.

Family court mediation may be sent to a judge, who will rule on any unresolved issues.
Family court mediation may be sent to a judge, who will rule on any unresolved issues.

When the court orders people to go to family court mediation a list of mediators is provided. The mediators are usually court employees who have received training and certification in mediation. Sessions include both parents and can also include their lawyers. In addition, the mediator may meet with the children to talk with them about which kinds of outcomes they would like to see. If there is a history of abuse or domestic violence, the mediator meets with the parents separately.

Child custody and divorce cases are often ordered mandatory mediation before appearing in family court.
Child custody and divorce cases are often ordered mandatory mediation before appearing in family court.

During family court mediation, the mediator works with the parents on arriving at an arrangement for custody and visitation. Other specifics of child care may also be discussed like which school the children should go to, how discipline should be handled, and so forth. The mediator acts as a neutral party to make sure that both sides are heard and respected, and encourages the parents to work together on an agreement which will be amenable to both parties.

Sometimes the outcome of family court mediation is a detailed agreement which both parties feel comfortable agreeing to, in which case it is forwarded to the court after being signed by both parents. However, it's not always possible to arrive at an agreement. In these cases, the court will hear the information and rule. It is important to be aware that if the parents can only reach a partial agreement in family court mediation this can still be sent to the judge, and the judge can rule on the details which are still unresolved.

Conflict resolution with a mediator can be advised even when it is not ordered by the court. Separating and divorcing is usually very stressful for all parties and emotions can run high. Asking a third party to help negotiate the terms from the start, even before the legal system becomes involved, can result in a smoother separation which minimizes harm. Using a trained mediator provides people with access to a professional who is committed to neutrality and who has received training in defusing tense situations.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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