Mediation should never be tried if there is domestic violence resulting in bodily harm, particularly if there are repeated incidents.  Mediation might be considered a safe alternative if there was a one-time incident not resulting in bodily harm to help parents make decisions involving sharing of children and arranging safe no-contact exchanges. If a judge feels mediation might be a safe alternative for parents, a judge might request the parties to enter mediation.

Anyone can refuse mediation if they are afraid and there is a history of domestic abuse. If your attorney feels there is a chance the judge will order mediation, speak with your attorney about your fear.  Your attorney can speak to the judge in advance of a hearing requesting he or she not order mediation in your case.  It is helpful for the judge to know this before the hearing begins.

Choosing a Support Person

If you are requested to enter mediation, you can request the presence of a support person. Support persons must be prearranged through the mediator in advance.  If you request the presence of a support person, the other party can also request to have a support person present. These support persons must be agreed upon by both parties in advance of mediation being scheduled.  If they cannot agree on who will be present, the mediator may decide that the process will not move forward.

It is important to choose the right support persons.

Support persons can have a calming presence in the room so mediation can be productive or they can raise defenses making mediation ineffective.  Support persons are not allowed to take part in discussions.  Disruptive behavior, rolling of eyes, inappropriate gestures or other types of disrespectful or disruptive behavior will end mediation.

Preparing for Mediation

Preparing beforehand will improve your ability to express your concerns clearly.  Being prepared with accurate facts will help everyone be businesslike in their discussions.  It is important to keep discussions businesslike and positive rather than focused on the past history between you and the other party. Be prepared to offer solutions and be ready to explain why the solutions are fair and meets the needs of children.  Be sure that you bring accurate facts to make informed decisions.  The success of mediation depends on how well prepared the parties come to the table!

1. Make a list of any concerns you have about the children.  Use short concrete statements and be specific. Bring the list with you to mediation.

2. Be prepared to provide at least two solutions for every concern your list.  Having more than one solution to suggest will help you be more open to discussion.  The other party will have other ideas. If you have more than one solution, there is a safety valve for the discussion to move ahead. Three solutions to every concern are ideal.

These are some examples.

    • a.Prepare 3 parenting time schedules. Be prepared to explain the advantages of each schedule.
    • b.Prepare 2 suggestions for exchanging information regarding children.
    • c.Prepare 3 suggestions for safe exchanges (places the exchanges can occur and who can provide exchange of children instead of parents, for example.)

3. Practice expressing concerns and suggestions out loud to a trusted friend or you can practice by speaking into a mirror until you can be express your concerns clearly, positively, and without emotion.  If your suggestions are one-sided, you will feel the difference when you express them out loud.

4. Avoid “you” statements.  Use “I” statements.  Avoid generalizing words like “always” or “never” that can be accusatory or inaccurate.  Keeping it neutral and non-offensive keeps everyone calm and safe. Keep voice and expressions businesslike and focused on the needs of your children.

5. Be sure you have correct and helpful facts needed for discussion, such as, information on bus schedules or your child’s teachers at school, or information about extracurricular activity information.

6. Speak to a lawyer if you have legal questions in advance.