Family Mediation Frequently Asked Questions:
Why does the court order us to mediation?
What does the mediator do?
What are we required to do at mediation?
How long does mediation take?
Do I need an attorney?
Do attorneys come to mediation?
Mediation is confidential. What does that mean?
Are mediation decisions final?
Is mediation appropriate in every case?
What if finances are a concern and I can’t afford mediation?
Q. Why does the court order us to mediation?
A. The 6th Judicial Court believes that since you are the experts in your life, you are best equipped to make your own decisions. Mediation as a first step may be the most effective and time efficient way to work out your problems. If you have children, you know what they need. After mediating, it may be easier to make decisions together when future issues come up. You can always resolve your differences in court if you can’t come to an agreement during mediation.
Q. What does the mediator do?
A. The mediator gives each of you a chance to tell your perspective, share your concerns, be heard and ask questions. The mediator helps you have a useful, productive conversation, in which you make the decisions. The mediator does not offer advice, expertise, or an opinion.
Q. What are we required to do at mediation?
A. Your only requirement is to attend a mediation session to hear what mediation is about. You are not required to stay for a specific amount of time. You can leave at any time. What you do in mediation and how long you stay is up to you.
Q. How long does mediation take?
A. It depends on you. If you only have a few matters to resolve, you may need just one session, which might last an hour or two. If you have many decisions to make, it may take two or more sessions. It is up to you. You decide what you’ll talk about, when the session is over and whether or not to come back. Although I set aside two hours for the mediation, you decide how long to stay, and pay only for the time you spend with me.
Q. Do I need an attorney?
A. Yes, ideally. There are legal, financial and tax consequences in divorce and custody cases. Getting advice on these matters will help you to make informed decisions. Some couples without children choose to divorce without hiring an attorney, filing their paperwork “pro se,” or, on their own behalf. Mediation is still required in these instances, though you may always apply for a mediation waiver through the court if mediation is not appropriate in your case. See below for more information about waivers.
Q. Do attorneys come to mediation?
A. If you want your attorneys to come, they are welcome. Most attorneys do not come to mediation, however. They usually meet with you to advise and prepare you for the first mediation session and in between any later sessions. In some cases, couples choose to attend mediation before their first meeting with an attorney. This can be a helpful approach, too. Mediation can help clients grow more clear, calm, confident, focused and decisive about important decisions coming up, and, if the couple has children, how to go forward as cooperative co-parents.
Q. Mediation is confidential. What does that mean?
A. The mediator does not tell the court how long you stayed in mediation or what you said during mediation. The mediator cannot be called as a witness in court. The other person cannot tell the court what you said during mediation. What you say during mediation cannot be used against you in court. You may, however, talk to your lawyers or friends about what you said during mediation. It is up to you who you talk to about what happens at your session. Your mediator will not discuss what was said with anyone, unless you direct her to.
Q. Are mediation decisions final?
A. No. You will not sign an agreement in mediation. Decisions are not final until the judge signs the decree. After mediation, you will have time to think about what you’ve decided and talk to your lawyer. Often people come back to another mediation session to talk and make changes together. Once you are sure of the decisions you’ve made during mediation, the mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding that is sent to your lawyer who will draft the letter into legal language for the court. The judge will review your agreement and (usually) accept your decision. Your decisions become the court’s decision. If you want to make changes later, you can work on them yourselves, or return to mediation, or return to court.
Q. Is mediation appropriate in every case?
A. No. It is not appropriate when there have been any of the following:
- physical or emotional abuse
- you feel afraid to be in a room with the other person
- you feel like you can’t speak up or disagree with the other person
- you feel like you or your children will be harmed later if you speak up in a mediation
- there have been threats by the other person to you or your children
You may file an application to have the court excuse you from mediation if you feel that mediation isn’t appropriate in your case. For more information on a mediation waiver go to www.mediateiowa.org, or ask your attorney or mediator.
Q. What if finances are a concern and I can’t afford mediation?
A. You may apply to the court for reduced mediation fees. To apply, file an Application for a Pro Bono Mediator and an Affidavit of Financial Status with the court. You may get these forms from the Clerk of Court or online at www.mediateiowa.org. You may also ask me about making payments, or, in some cases, you may qualify to pay a reduced amount at the time of mediation. I am happy to answer payment questions over the telephone or via your email inquiry.