Custody and Parenting Time Mediation Program
This site is designed to provide you with general information and to answer some frequently asked questions about the Family Court Mediation Program. This site may not contain all of the questions you may have regarding mediation.
- What is mediation?
- What types of cases are not appropriate for mediation?
- How long does this mediation process take?
- What happens if we can reach an agreement?
- What happens if we don’t reach an agreement?
- What do I have to do to prepare to mediate my case?
- Who participates in the mediation session?
- Why should I have my case mediated instead of having a judge decide my case?
- How much does mediation cost?
- Do agreements reached through mediation last?
- Who may I contact if I have legal questions?
Family Court Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party, called a mediator, assists parents and, in some instances other relatives, in reaching agreements having to do with custody and parenting time disputes. Mediation provides parties with an opportunity to actively make decisions and develop a parenting plan that the parents and children can live with. There are three ways in which you may become involved with this program:
- The case may be referred directly by a Family Court judge through a court order. At the time of the hearing, the judge may decide that your issues might be resolved with the assistance of a mediator.
- When a complaint for custody and parenting time is initially filed, it may be screened and found to be an appropriate case for mediation.
- If a case is referred for a custody and parenting time investigation, it will automatically be screened to determine if it is appropriate for mediation. In the event it is appropriate, the parent(s) will automatically become involved in the program.
Cases in which there is an active domestic violence restraining order between the parties, or active child welfare agency involvement, are not accepted into the program. Generally, matters are handled on a case by case basis to determine if they will be accepted.
Some matters get resolved in as little as one hour while others may take longer. All mediation appointments are scheduled in three hour blocks of time to allow parties ample time to discuss their concerns. There are instances when it becomes necessary to schedule a second session in order to resolve issues and to reach a final agreement.
If you reach an agreement that is acceptable to both you and the other parent, the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding or consent order. This document will outline the terms of the agreement and will be signed by both you and the mediator. Once the memorandum of understanding or consent order is signed by the judge, it becomes a legal and enforceable order of the court.
1) If the case was originally referred for a custody or parenting time investigation, the matter will be automatically transferred to the Family Court’s Assessment Unit so that the appropriate investigation can be performed, or
2) If the matter was referred directly into the program from court, it will then be rescheduled before that same judge for a hearing at a later date.
All parties involved in the Mediation Program will have to attend a Parents Education Program or workshop. At the workshop, participants will view videotapes, receive written information relating to custody and parenting time and are free to ask questions about the mediation process in general. The primary purpose of this workshop is to educate parents as to how their child(ren) are affected when the parents become involved in custody and parenting time disputes.
Mediation is a confidential process. Information discussed between the parties and the mediator is not discussed by the mediator with anyone including your attorney and the judge. The individuals who are directly involved in the matter are required to participate in the mediation session. Attorneys are also permitted to attend and participate. As a general rule, the mediator and the parties should consider whether it is appropriate to involve the child in the mediation process.
The mediation process allows you and the other parent to maintain the ability to control the parenting plan that will affect your life and the child(ren)’s life. Mediation encourages cooperation, and communication between parents. When issues of custody and parenting time go before a judge, the control over making any decisions is surrendered to the judge, who has the final say.
There is no cost to the parties if they participate in this program.
Studies have shown that parents who reach agreements on their own are much happier with those agreements and they tend to follow them more than court orders which were determined by a judge. When the parties walk out of a court room, usually one person feels as though s/he has lost and the other person has won. When parents successfully mediate their custody and parenting time issues both parents leave the session feeling that they have contributed to the decision making process.
If you have legal questions, you may contact the Hudson County Bar
Association’s Referral Services at 201-795-2727 or the Hudson County
Legal Services located at