Mediation – Voluntary or Court Mandated

There are essentially two (2) types of divorce mediation: Voluntary Mediation and Court Mandated Mediation.

Voluntary Mediation
Generally, at any time you and the other parent have the right to enter into voluntary mediation. Voluntary mediation is where you voluntarily (without any mandates from the court or any other source) take your family court issues to an independent third (3rd) party who is has been specifically trained in the art of mediation and negotiation. The primary function of an independent mediator is to assist you and the other parent in coming to compromised agreements, which are then prepared into court approved documents, which then become court orders.

Court Mandated Mediation
The second type of mediation is court connected mandatory mediation. This mediation is set up by the family courts and you are mandated by the court to attend. Mediators in court connected mandatory mediation offices are generally professional mediators hired by the court to help parents come up with their own agreements, typically dealing only with custody and visitation issues. There are generally two (2) types of court connected mandatory mediation – confidential mediation and recommendation mediation.

Confidential Mediation is where all that is said and done within the mediation session is kept confidential. There court will never hear what was specifically said or done within the mediation sessions.

Unlike confidential mediation, in recommendation mediation the mediators actually make custody and visitation recommendations directly to the court. Everything that was said and all behaviors exhibited during the mediation sessions are open for the mediator to interpret, judge and comment upon in open court.

Personal Note
As a former mediator in a non-recommendation county, I find it very difficult to believe mediators within the recommendation model actually believe they can learn the dynamics of a particular family system and become so familiar with its functioning that they can ethically make a valid custody and visitation recommendation. I have experienced a vast number of complete custody evaluations where after months of studying the family the evaluator expresses a very deep conflict over what to recommend for a particular family. Yet, in the recommendation model, mediators believe they have enough information within hours, not months, to actually make a neutral unbiased recommendation. Really? Mediators can do what a custody evaluator can not do even after studying the family for months? This is one of the more obvious forms of family abuse that families are subjected to within the adversarial family court system.