Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mediation for Marion County and Beyond

Marion County Courts love pushing cases into mediation. They also provide a nifty brochure for people going into mediation. But you need to go into the court's office to get the brochure and I did not find its parallel on the website for the Marion County Courts and that is why I am posting this information here.

I have taken the liberty of re-ordering the order of the text. I think a good portion of the brochure applies outside of Marion County and ought to get some attention.

What is mediation?

It is a process in which a neutral third person—the mediator—will help you and the other party find ways to work together in resolving the issues that cause disagreements.

Unlike a court hearing that is open to the public, your mediation session is confidential. That means each of you may speak freely and honestly in your efforts to resolve your conflicts.
Will the mediator decide who is right and who is wrong?

No, the mediator is not a judge or a decision-maker. In mediation, you and the other party are the decision-makers. The mediator’s job is to encourage and support the conversations you have with the other party in your efforts to resolve your concerns. The mediator will help clarify misunderstandings and diffuse anger.

Although the mediator may ask questions or make suggestions for you and the other party to consider, the mediator will never tell you what to do.
What happens if mediation doesn’t work? What are my responsibilities in court- ordered mediation?
Just because the court ordered you to participate in mediation, you are not required to reach an agreement with the other person. However, the court does require you to do the following:

1) Appear promptly at the time and place scheduled for the mediation
2) Listen to what the other person has to say
3) Be respectful toward the other person and the mediator
4) Work in good faith with the other person in attempting to resolve your
What happens if I don’t fulfill these responsibilities?

The Judge can hold you in contempt of court and/or you may be required to pay the following

• The cost of the mediation that did not occur
• Attorney’s fees for having to take the case back into the court
How do I prepare for mediation?

• Read and complete all of the items on the checklist in this brochure.
• Bring all information to the mediation.
• Write your mediator’s name and contact information on the back of this

If you and the other party have made a good faith attempt to work together during mediation but the two of you are unable to reach agreement on all of the issues, you will have to request the court to schedule your proceeding for a court hearing. Then you and the other party will have to proceed in the “old fashioned” way, and at the end of your hearing, the Judge, not you, will decide the outcome.

Most people who have been through proceedings like yours will tell you that you are better off making your own decisions in mediation rather than having the Judge make them for you following a hearing. That’s because you and the other party know more about your lives and needs than the Judge will know after a short hearing.
This is more true than many think - settlement is always better than a fight.
What happens after an agreement is reached?

The agreement (signed by both parties) is both binding and enforceable. However, there is still a need to submit a settlement agreement and decree to the court. If you have an attorney, your attorney should do this. If you do not have an attorney, you should try to find one who is willing to create these documents on your behalf or you can attempt to create your own with the assistance of the Indiana Supreme Court Website.
Why did the Court order me to mediation?

...Because it works! Mediation will help your family resolve conflicts quickly, effectively, and
without the problems that go along with court hearings.

...Because your Judge believes that it is a reasonable option to resolve your family’s issues.
Okay, I think these points are valid. I could add a couple more that betray my cynicism but today I will be charitable and meekly add that mediation shunts family law cases out of the courtroom and into the mediator's office.

It also gives a checklist for contacting your court-ordered mediator:
1. Read your court order -
Good advice for any court order - read them, ask questions if you do not understand it, obey.
• If you have one mediator named, copy the contact information onto the back of this brochure then go on to step two.
Okay, no brochure here to write on the back of, so just right it down.
• If there is a list of three mediators on your order, you and the other party must each choose one mediator to eliminate and inform the court of your choice. The name that remains on the list will be your mediator.
2.Contact your mediator and schedule your mediation.
3. Gather the information required by your mediator which may include:
• Completed Financial Declaration
• Proof of Medical Insurance
• Day Care Expenses
• Tax Returns
• Documents for Mortgage Payoffs
• Statements of 401(K)s and IRAs
• Parenting Time Calendars
• Children’s Extracurricular Activity Calendar
• Insurance Policy Information
• Statement of What You Desire the Agreement to be
Actually, a good list for all divorces regardless of county. All of these documents ought to be already with your lawyer or on their way.
5. Make sure that you have a signed copy of your agreement
6. Take steps to have your agreement documented and submitted to the court....

The brochure reminds us that mediation is required for modification (custody, support, visitation/parenting time) cases:
If you are in court for modification, you are required by a Marion County Local Rule to try mediation before you go back into court.
From my perspective north of Indianapolis, wholesale mediation is not a good thing. With gas pushing past $.00 a gallon, I wonder how many will find themselves in a problem of also paying for mediation as well as court costs and child support and legal fees. Marion County has a solution for that problem: Pro Bono Mediation, Marion County Family Court Project, 200 E. Washington Street, T1221 Indianapolis, IN 46204; 317-327-3705. If the courts will order mediation, then they should provide services for those who cannot afford the serviced ordered.

If you need a lawyer for a Marion County family law case, feel free to contact me.

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