Domestic Relations Mediation Frequently Asked Questions
What is mediation?
Mediation is a collaborative process and is a viable alternative to the win-lose (or lose-lose) approach of the adversarial legal system. It is practical, informed, highly focused on the issues to be resolved, and involved mutual problem solving.
Mediation places the outcome in the hands of the mediating parties.
Do I have to mediate?
Mediation is a voluntary process; however, in Marion and Polk County Oregon, parties are required to attend one session of mediation in custody and parenting time disputes.
Most parties continue to mediate after the first mandatory session, because they find it productive and an effective way to resolve their parenting time and custody disputes.
Michelle also mediates private divorce mediation. Parties involved in this process are self-selected and are highly satisfied with the results because they remain the decision makers in their family as opposed to having a highly qualified (yet unfamiliar with the family and child/ren’s needs) judge make decisions for the family.
How long does mediation last?
Each session is approximately an hour long. Cases are typically settled between two to six sessions. A majority of cases are settled in four sessions. When parties meet separately, it takes on average four or more sessions. Rarely do parties in domestic relations disputes have the stamina to resolve all issues in one session.
There may be other people involved whom a parent may want input. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, stepparents and significant others may need to be consulted before a final parenting plan is agreed upon. Often parents go home and come back to make minor changes to the discussed plan to accommodate the schedules of others whom the child has a relationship and are important to the family.
Furthermore, parties may need time to consult with his or her attorney before finalizing his or her parenting plan.
Most parenting plans require two or more sessions before coming to a final agreement. Four sessions is the average.
May I bring my child to mediation?
No. Things discussed in mediation are not appropriate to be discussed in front of your children or any other child. The receptionist at the office does not work for the mediator and bills her time to watch children in the waiting area at $40.00 an hour. Payment must be made upfront.
I am traveling long distances to participate in mediation, will we be done in a day?
It depends on a number of factors. If travel is an issue, please bring that to the attention of the mediator. If both parties prefer a half day session to work out all the issues, let us know. Understand that mediation can be emotionally exhausting and prepare for that.
I live far away, I don’t have the ability to travel to the mediator’s office for multiple appointments..
Parties who live more than 25 miles outside the county may appear by phone or Skype. Please let our scheduler know your situation.
A restraining order or “no contact” order was issued by a judge in one or more of my cases that involve the other person, how can we mediate?
If there is no exception to the restraining order or “no contact” order for mediation, then we will use shuttle mediation. Shuttle mediation is a process by which the parties meet seperately and have different sessions with the mediator. The parties will not be told when the other party will be at the mediator’s office for his or her session.
What if I am not willing meet with the other party face-to-face?
Let the mediator know. Mediation works best if both parties meet face-to-face, but this is not always plausible. It is not necessary that the parties meet in person for mediation to work. Michelle does meet with parties separately; however, those mediations often take longer to reach a final resolution.
Mediation can be uncomfortable, but it does not have to be.
The mediator may decide to employ shuttle mediation where the mediator places the parties in a separate room to help reduce conflict, and the mediator will shuttle between the two rooms.
Is mediation confidential?
Yes, but there are some exceptions. The mediator will not be testifying in your matter, nor is the mediator’s notes or drafts admissible in court. The mediator does not release her notes to either parties or their attorneys. The parties may review the draft parenting plan with their attorneys before signing.
There are exceptions to confidentiality. The common exceptions are the mediator is a mandatory reporter and may have to disclose information related to child abuse, elder abuse or abuse of someone with a disability, credible threat to self or others, or complaints made against the mediator. The mediator also reports to the court (in court appointed cases) whether or not there was a settlement and how much time was used.
General discriptions of issues may be used for training purposes; however, the identity of the parties will remain anonymous.
May I bring a support person with me to mediation?
Your support person can wait for you outside the session. Support persons may not sit in the mediation session unless all parties participating in mediation consent.
What will we mediate?
Court referred domestic relations mediation cover parenting time and custody matters, only. We will not mediate child support or financial matters in court sponsored mediation.
If you would like to mediate financial matters, you may discuss with the mediator an agreement to mediate those issues seperately and after the parenting time and custody matters have been resolved.
How should I prepare for a domestic relations mediation?
Please bring the current parenting plan or if there is no current parenting plan, a proposed parenting plan.
Michelle asks all new clients to share information about the child/ren and to state their goals for mediation. Each response should be two to three minutes in length.
I want 50/50 Joint Custody and everything to be fair and equal; how do I make the other party understand that it needs to be fair?
First of all, understand the difference between parenting time and custody. Equal amount of parenting time does not mean joint custody. Further, it is possible for one party to have more or less parenting time and have joint custody or for one parent to have sole custody.
Parenting time is parenting time. We no longer use the words “visitation.” Parents do not “visit” their children or vice versa. Parents parent children.
Custody means major decision making. Major decisions are decisions related to education, religious affiliation, haircuts, non-emergency medical and dental care. When parents agree to these matters (most do) Joint Custody is feasible. When the parties cannot agree on such decisions, then Joint Custody is probably not feasible.
If I am not the “custodial parent,” does that mean I lose rights as a parent?
No. The non-custodial parent has access to the child’s medical and school records, may participate in parent teacher conferences. The non-custodial parent may sign the child up for activities, and depending on your parenting plan, each parent may be limited to signing the child up for activities on his or her own time.
The non-custodial parent retains all parental rights and responsibilities; however, certain decisions are deferred to the custodial parent as certain decisions simply have to be made.
Don’t I need to have custody or I won’t be able to make emergency medical or dental decisions for my child?
One does not need legal custody to consent to emergency medical treatment for the child.
What if the other side wants more or less time with the children to affect child support?
The mediator asks that the parties put their personal interest aside and focus on what is best for the child or children.
How much experience and training does Michelle have as a mediator?
Michelle is qualified and met the requirements to be placed on the court approved domestic mediations panel in Marion County and Polk County circuit courts and meet all the SFLAC guidelines as a mediator. Both counties and SFLAC require extensive training in mediation and at least 50 hours of supervisions (for mediators with experience as an attorney practicing in the area of law for two or more years.)
Michelle practice law for fourteen years before becoming a mediator. Michelle arbitrated hundreds of cases, and taken several cases through trial from contracts disputes, to domestic relations issues, and complex intellectual property infringement matters. She has taken the basic mediation training courses and the advance mediation training for domestic relations, court connected training, and juvenile victim offender training.
Michelle continues to engage in training opportunities through the Oregon State Bar’s Family Law section, State Family Law Advisory Committee, Association for Family and Conciliation Courts, Neighbor-to-Neighbor, Marion County, and Polk County.
Since becoming a mediator, Michelle has mediated hundreds of cases.
Can Michelle give me legal advice during or after mediation?
No. Mediators are not permitted to give legal advice to either party. Michelle encourages her mediation clients to consult with their attorney at any time during the mediation process. If one does not have an attorney, one may call the Oregon State Bar for a referral.
I cannot afford an attorney. Can’t Michelle give me advice anyway since she is a lawyer?
No. If Michelle was appointed as the mediator she cannot represent either parties.
Michelle is not your attorney unless you have a signed fee agreement, have paid a retainer, and your fee agreement was acknowledged with an engagement letter signed by Michelle. Moreover, Michelle is prohibited from siding with one party over the other in a mediation.
Does Michelle mediate with same sexed couples?
Does Michelle mediate in any other language?
No, Michelle is no fluent in any other language. Michelle’s office will coordinate scheduling with a court approved translator.
Does Michelle have a bias toward or against Fathers or Mothers as custodial parents?
Michelle has no bias for or against one gendered parent over the other in any given circumstance. Each family is different. Besides, if the parents cannot agree on custody, the answer is simple, that part of the mediation does not need to be resolved and the parties can set a trial date and allow a judge to determine who should be the major decisions making parent.
I heard Oregon laws and courts favor Mothers over Fathers?
It is simply not true.
What should I do if I think my mediator is biased?
All mediators have been trained to be unbiased and to recuse himself or herself if one feels he or she is biased toward one party over the other.
If you think your mediator is biased, the answer is simple; request another mediator. There are other mediators on the court approved panel.
Can I record my mediation?
No. Mediation is a confidential process. Any audio recording of mediation is explicitly prohibited. Mediation discussions may not be used in court.
Why does mediation work?
Mediation is a process. Most people who participate in mediation in good faith, and allow the mediator to facilitate the discussion, are able to reach a long lasting resolution.
How do I set up an appointment?
Call our office to schedule an appointment. Have your calendar ready. It is helpful if you have a general idea of what the other party’s availability is, but it is not necessary. It is also helpful to suggest times that both parties are available. If you suggest time you know the other party is not available or will be an inconvenience to the other party it will take longer to set up your session.
We have appointment times during the week between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., the last start time is 4:00 p.m.