Throughout Ohio families are settling disputes in mediation and not in the courtroom. Ohio Revised Code 3109.052 authorizes mediation in cases involving the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. Many courts now require that the parties try to reach an accommodation before they can terminate or modify a shared parenting plan. An experienced attorney should be able to give you advice about the differences amongst the mediation programs offered by local courts. Below is an example of a typical local rule regarding mediation; this rule is from the Greene County Domestic Relations Court:
3.02 MEDIATION OF DIFFERENCES AS TO ALLOCATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
In any action for divorce, legal separation, annulment, or the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for the care of a minor child, or children where the parents do not agree upon an appropriate allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, the Court may Order the parents to mediate their differences on such issues as the Court directs in accordance with mandates of Section 3109.052 of the Ohio Revised Code. The Court shall refer the parties to a mediator of the Court’s choosing, either a staff mediator or an independent mediator who can provide mediation services, being qualified according to Sup. R. 16.
The mediator, on behalf of the parents, shall submit to the Court a report, which summarizes the mediation process, and shall indicate only whether agreement was reached or whether mediation failed. If an agreement was reached, the mediator shall report the content and details of the agreement to counsel or the parties. The Court is not bound by the mediation agreement, and in all cases shall be governed by the best interests of the minor child or children.
The costs of mediation shall be paid by each parent in proportional amounts as shall be determined by the Court, or in such other manner as the Court may direct.
3.03 THE ROLE AND AUTHORITY OF THE MEDIATOR
The role of the mediator is to assist the parties in identifying the issues involved, reducing any misunderstanding regarding such issues, clarifying the priorities of the parties in relation to the best interest of the child or children, exploring areas of compromise, and finding points of mutual agreement. While it is imperative to the success of the mediation that the parties fully participate in the mediation process, the process may be terminated upon the decision of the mediator. The mediator shall terminate any mediation in which the parties are abusive, either to each other or to the mediator during the course of the mediation.
Mediator shall make no recommendation to the Court based on either the parties’ statement during the mediation process or any personal evaluation by the mediator of the comparative fitness of the parties as a custodial parent. Statements made during mediation shall be considered inadmissible as evidence pursuant to Evidence Rule 408. Further, no mediator shall be considered as a witness regarding any matter in which he or she has participated as a mediator.
Any mediator providing services for the Court shall utilize procedures that will:
A. Screen for Domestic Violence before and during mediation.
B. Encourage appropriate referrals to legal counsel and other support services for parties to the mediation.
Mediation is often appropriate where there is a change of circumstances of sufficient merit to permit a court to modify the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. For practitioners, mediation can help make decision making less contentious and provide an environment conducive to determining the best interests of the child. In my practice, I have seen successful mediation in matters such as schooling, religious issues, discipline, medical issues, and issues involving a wide range of issues related to the child’s upbringing. It can also be a less expensive alternative than to litigate these matters in an adversarial proceeding.
Find out more by contacting Jamie L. Anderson at (937) 879-9542 or visit www.OhioDivorceAttorney.com. Jamie dedicates her practice to helping people make good decisions about their family, their finances and their future.