What is mediation in family law cases?
Mediation is a process that gives people who disagree on issues in
a family law case help in reaching an agreement by a neutral person
trained in problem solving. Each Oregon county is required to provide
some form of mediation service in family law cases.
Who is a mediator in family law cases?
Mediators in family law cases are trained as licensed social workers,
psychologists and attorneys. Some mental health professionals may not
mediate financial issues such as support and property division. Some
attorney mediators may not mediate custody or parenting time disputes,
so you should inquire before hiring them.
What kind of family law cases are mediated?
Any type of family law case may be mediated. If there is a disagreement
over custody of minor children, parenting time with minor children,
child or spousal support, or allocation of debt and distribution of
property, the parties may (with or without their lawyers) call on a
mediator to help them resolve their disputes. Mediation is available
whether or not the parents of the minor child were married, and it
is available to resolve disputes over grandparent visitation. The courts
encourage mediation of disputes in family law cases, because the court
process often fails to adequately resolve disputed issues. Mediation
is not normally used to address a family abuse prevention restraining
What is the cost of family law mediation?
The cost of mediation in family law cases varies from county to county
and from case to case. Some counties provide mediation services at
no cost through their county’s department of family services,
so long as the case is filed in that county. Other counties provide
mediation services, but the parties must pay a fee in addition to their
filing fee to meet with a mediator who has contracted with the county
to provide mediation services. Those fees vary greatly. Some services
will reduce or waive the fee for low-income people. Private mediators’ charges
vary. Check with your individual county to determine what the charges for these services are in your area.
What is the procedure in family law mediation?
In some counties, as soon as a petition is filed, the parent filing
the petition must tell the court that there is a controversy over custody
or parenting time with a minor child. The parents are required to attend
a mediation orientation session, a parenting class, and meet with a
mediator to try to resolve those disputes. In other counties, the court
requires the parties to attend mediation when one or more parties ask
the court to hold a hearing on custody or parenting time. And in some
counties, there is no mandatory requirement of mediation, but the court
maintains a list of private mediators who will, upon request, assist
parents in resolving custody and parenting time disputes.
If one of the parties in the case reasonably believes mediation is
not appropriate because it will expose him or her to violence or intimidation,
the mediation can be structured to minimize the danger, or the mediation
requirement might be waived.
Even if there are no children, many counties have a number of private
mediators, typically lawyers, who will assist parties in family law
cases to resolve their disputes. This service covers divorces and other
types of family separations.
Each party is encouraged to give information to the mediator prior
to the mediation session to help the mediator resolve the dispute.
Lawyers for the parties often do not attend the mediation if it is
with the county’s mediator but can attend if the mediator is
a private party. Lawyers may attend the mediation sessions if both
parties agree. A mediator may first meet with both parties (and their
lawyers), and then meet with each side confidentially, going back and
forth between the parties until an agreement is reached. This is called
What happens at the end of family law mediation?
If the parties in mediation of custody and parenting time issues reach
an agreement, the mediator will usually draw up an agreement that the
parties sign. The agreement may be presented to the court for its approval.
If the mediation involved financial and support issues, the mediator
may draw up a memorandum of agreement, and then the parties take the
memorandum to their lawyers, who complete the papers required for court
approval. If the mediator is a private party and an attorney, he or
she may prepare the necessary legal paperwork to effectuate the agreement.
On the other hand, if the dispute is not settled in mediation, then
the case proceeds to trial before a judge. Anything that was said in
the mediation is confidential, and the court decides the issues. Therefore,
the court may decide custody, support and financial issues without
knowing what the parties’ positions were during mediation. Most
courts have a standard parenting time schedule that they may impose
if the parties do not offer a mediated plan of their own. If the parties
reached an agreement in mediation, the mediator may be called to court
to testify about the terms of the agreement.
Legal editor: Sharon A. Williams, September 2011