Court Mandated Mediation

Many states now have court connected mandatory mediation (sometimes referred to as conciliation or conciliation court – meaning an agreement under friendly terms). Court mandated mediation is a non-adversarial process where a neutral third party meets with the disputing parents to assist them in settling their issues and coming to an agreement.

Court mediator’s are mental health professionals who typically have at least a Masters Degree, with extensive experience in the field of marriage, family and child counseling and/or social work. Mediators are specifically trained in conflict resolution skills and the process of mediation. Court mandated mediators are court employees not paid by either party. They assist the parents in focusing on the best interests of their children, to deal with the present situation and developing plans to deal with that situation.

One of the main ideas of mandatory mediation is to help the parents see the positive issues each parent comes up with, without blaming or shaming the other parent. Although the needs of the children come first, mediation is also sensitive to the needs of both parents.

Mandatory court connected mediation is not marriage counseling and it is not reconciliation counseling designed to get the parents back together. The primary purpose of mandatory court connected mediation is to allow the parents the time and opportunity to develop their own agreements before direct court intervention is necessary. This process frees up the court’s time, which is already at a premium.

Although mandated to go to mediation, the parties are not mandated to actually mediate and certainly are not mandated to come to any agreements – unless they want to.

My background is in just such a mediation setting. In the early 80′s I was a court mediator in the downtown Los Angeles Conciliation Court. Based on that experience, I offer the following to you:

In mediation, as in all areas of your life, act, do not react, to the situation. Personal attacks and character assassinations are neither warranted nor productive. You are in mediation to talk about the needs and your interpretation of the best interests of your children, which will include your desires as to a parenting plan. You are NOT there to “settle the score” with the other parent.

If you sense you are being verbally chastised or abused during the mediation process, it is up to you to ensure such actions are stopped. Reacting to that type of behavior will only escalate the behavior and serve to sabotage any meaningful mediation or negotiation. If the verbal abuse or chastisement continues, excuse yourself and leave the mediation room. Thank the mediator for their time and explain to them that you are not there to settle old relationship issues and that you personally have no need to sit there and take verbal abuse, accusations, threats or derogatory comments.

You have the inalienable right (a right which may not be taken away or transferred to another person) to personal boundaries of behavior which are acceptable to you and you do not give up those rights just because you are in Court Connected Mandatory Mediation.

There are two types of Court Connected Mandatory Mediation. Some court’s allow for totally confidential mediation wherein if the party’s do not make an agreement, all that happened in the mediation process is kept confidential and away from the court. Other court’s allow for a recommendation mediation policy wherein at the conclusion of the mediation process, the mediator makes a recommendation to the court as to what the mediator sees as being the best solution for the family. In future articles I will explain the basic differences between confidential mediation and recommendation mediation.