Mediation is a process by which a neutral third party intervenes between two conflicting parties to come to a mutual agreement, settlement or compromise. Mediation is a useful tool for resolving almost all civil (non-criminal) disputes, including divorces and employment disputes. The mediator does not make decisions; the disputing parties come to the decisions with the help and guidance of the mediator.
Mediation is now commonly required by family courts to resolve such issues as child custody and visitation and child support agreements. The court will screen the parties to see if mediation is a good idea, and if so, a court approved mediator will be selected to assist the case.
Family courts will not order mediation in certain circumstances, even if it is the court’s policy to require such mediation.
Common situations where courts will not order mediation include cases where the parties have a history of power imbalance, domestic violence, substance or child abuse, and mental illness. If the court’s screening process fails to recognize that your specific situation is not appropriate for mediation, you may be able to opt out of the court order.
If you are involved in a child support or custody dispute, you may wish to speak with a family lawyer even if the court has ordered mediation. Working with an experienced lawyer can help you understand your rights and help you deal with the complicated court system.