The process of mediation is the opportunity to resolve the issues related to the child through the voluntary mutual agreement of the parties. Other issues appropriate for mediation may include the development of a communication path for day to day co-parent problem solving; and to plan the extra-curricular activities of the child.
If, as parents, you can cooperate in a working relationship with each other, your children can feel the love and acceptance of both parents and will benefit from this mutual effort.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is parents working together. Mediation is a confidential cooperative problem solving process designed for parents who live apart to help settle disagreements about the children. With the assistance of an impartial mediator, parents have the opportunity to work together and provide each other with information necessary to solve problems which families frequently experience. Parents are encouraged to discuss their own desires as well as the present and future needs of the children, in the open and positive environment of mediation.
Wisconsin Statute 767.405 mandates that disagreeing parents, who do not live together, must attempt resolution in mediation on issues of Legal Custody (decisions) and/or Physical Placement (time). Parents may use mediation as often and frequently as appropriate for co-parenting. The mandate for mediation is a 2-step process.
The 1st step requires that each parent attend the two-hour group orientation session before the first mediation session. Parents may attend the orientation separate or together. Participation in mediation does not obligate you to reach an agreement. It should be a commitment to try. Attendance at the two-hour orientation is repeated every five years, if returning to mediation at that time.
The goals of the orientation are multiple and include: (1) assist parents to identify the adult experience of coping with changes in the family; (2) focus on the child’s needs and developmental stages of the child; (3) educate parents about mediation and negotiation skills, as well as information of Court procedures in Family Court.
When Is Mediation Not Appropriate?
Mediation is not appropriate if participation would endanger the health or safety of one of the parties. Mediation may be waived, by the Director, due to:
- domestic violence
- child abuse
- child neglect
- an Order of the Court ordering no contact with the child
- current drug or significant alcohol abuse
Even if some of these factors are present, mediation may benefit those with a desire to structure parenting arrangements unique to the situation and needs. According to WI Statute 767.405, the mediator is responsible for providing a safe environment for all participants. Concerns for safety during mediation are to be brought to the attention of the Director before scheduling a mediation appointment. All parents must attend the orientation, even if the joint session is determined as not appropriate.
Who Participates In Mediation?
The first mediation appointment is with the two parents and a mediator. Grandparents or Legal Guardians may also be ordered to mediation. On the recommendation of the mediator, and with the approval of the Director in advance, and if the parties agree, there may be times when a step-parent(s) is asked to participate in mediation if thought to be of help in reaching an agreement and resolving disputes. Children do not participate in mediation.
The Role of the Mediator
You know your child better than anyone does. The mediator helps parents to focus on common interests, develop alternatives, concentrate on parenting issues, and assists with constructive suggestions on arrangements for the children to be with both families.
The mediator has a responsibility to report to law enforcement authorities if the mediator reasonably believes that there has been unreported abuse or neglect of a child, or that someone is in imminent physical danger or becomes aware of criminal actions/behaviors.
Following your mediation, your joint decisions are drafted into a Memorandum of Agreement by the mediator and sent to you and your attorney for review. Upon your approval and the signatures of all parties, the (MOA) document is submitted to the Court, and upon signature of the Judge is a Stipulation and Order.
Legal Rights and Mediation
Mediation is based on good faith negotiation. What you say in mediation is confidential. All agreements reached in mediation are legally binding when accepted by the Court. Be prepared to do your best to work within the guidelines of any agreement you create with the other parent.
The mediator is not permitted to give legal advice. Therefore, Mediation & Family Court Services recommends all mediated agreements be reviewed by an attorney for clarification of the legal implications of your decisions.
Mediation, by WI Stat. 767.405, cannot address financial or economic issues (including child support) and are to be taken to an attorney for assistance.
The mediator will not provide counseling, therapy, legal advice or legal representation. Working with attorneys and therapists can better equip you to make decisions in mediation. In a parenting dispute, these other professional services are useful and often necessary.
Agreement Is Voluntary
Even though participation is mandatory, agreements in mediation are voluntary. The mediator has no p ower to impose a solution on you. Agreements made in mediation should be the result of the parents’ mutual understanding of “the best interest of the child” with careful consideration of the costs of other alternatives, both financial and emotional.
How Long Does Mediation Take?
Each family situation is unique. This is one reason you are best equipped to create the most effective parenting plan. This also means that mediation may require more time for some families and less for others. Sessions are typically two to three hours in length; sometimes it takes more than one session for parents to reach an acceptable agreement. Both parents, along with the mediator, will determine how many sessions are necessary.
Looking Ahead... Making the Most of Your Mediation Appointment
In Mediation, the focus is on the potential for the future rather than disppoinments of the past. When the dust clears, it's the children, you, and the other parent. You must decide whether you want a working relationship ro to battle each other.
Your new plan may be negotiated with the help of a mediator or the assistance of your attorney, or worked out on your own or decided by a Judge. But in the end, only the parents can make it work. Mediation offers parents the opportunity to work together to determine what will work best for their children.
Additional issues for discussion in mediation to develop a positive co-parenting relationship may include the items on the worksheets in the Forms & Worksheets section of this website. Please review the worksheets to be prepared to present your suggestions in mediation to resolve the issues related to your child about Legal Custody (decisions) and/or Physical Placement (time).