Mediation is a process in which a mediator tries to help parties come to agreements. A mediator is a trained neutral who does not take sides. The mediator will try to help you solve these issues:
- Where the children will live
- When the other parent will have contact with the children
- How you plan to make decisions about children
- Amount of child support
- How the children's health care will be covered
The cost of court sponsored mediation is $160 total - that's $80 per party. If you cannot afford to pay these costs, you can use these fee waiver forms to apply to have this fee waived by the court.
Again, it is important to prepare ahead of time. Read more about the decisions you will need to make.
In the case of divorce, the Mediator will ask about:
- How you will divide your marital property and debts
- Whether one party will pay spousal support
NOTE: If you are not married, then the court will address your child-related issues. But it will not help you divide up your property and debts. You will have to figure this out on your own.
You must mediate in "good faith," but you don't have to agree to anything that you believe is wrong or wouldn't work. If the other party has abused you or you are afraid, ask to meet with the mediator alone to tell the mediator that you are afraid. You can ask to be in a separate room from the other party during the mediation.
NOTE: You can choose to use a private mediator, rather than the court mediator. But you must pay the mediator's fee.
The mediator will give the Magistrate a report. This report outlines any agreements you were able to reach during the mediation. The report only notes what agreements were reached and what issues are still disputed. There are no notes about what offers were made, or what either party said during the mediation. Mediations are confidential.
After mediation the Court will schedule a status conference where the Magistrate will review the report and decide the next step.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do I have to go to mediation if I am afraid of my spouse or former partner?
A. The court may waive mediation "for extraordinary cause." For example, if you think trying to mediate will trigger abuse, you may ask the court to let you skip mediation. You can ask the Magistrate to do this in person at your first court meeting (the "Case Management Conference") or at a later Status Conference.
Or you can ask at any time in writing. Send a letter to the court or file a more formal motion. Explain what has happened to make you afraid of the other party. If you include a sworn affidavit, you must sign your affidavit under oath in front of a notary public. Attach a copy of your Protection from Abuse Order, if you have one. File these papers with the court clerk. The clerk will ask the Judge to look at them and decide whether or not you will have to mediate.
If you get to mediation and you are still afraid, ask the mediator to talk to you in private about your concerns. The mediator can allow you to stay in separate rooms. In extreme cases, the mediator can decide that mediation won't work, or can stop mediation after it starts if someone is threatened.
We encourage people affected by domestic violence to try to get a lawyer. A good first step may be to contact your local domestic violence program: 1-866-83-4HELP.