What is mediation?
The Court provides parties in a divorce or parenting case with a neutral, expert communicator (called a mediator) who helps parties constructively discuss parenting and/or financial matters. Parties focus on their (and their child’s) needs and concerns. If they choose, parties may generate options for agreement and decide whether to agree to some, all, or none of them. If parties do not come to agreement, they will be scheduled for a hearing with a judge.
How does mediation work?
The Court usually appoints a certified family mediator after First Appearance (for parties with a child) or after a judge reviews the case (for parties without children). A party may also request mediation by motion. If assigned, the parties are required to attend or be charged a fee. At mediation, parties meet in a private, confidential setting (often a courthouse conference room) for up to 4 hours, split into 2-hour sessions. Parties may meet together or may be in separate rooms while the mediator communicates between them. The mediator helps parties understand the process, guides parties in resolving disagreement, and aids parties in filling out documents necessary for case completion. A judge reviews the documents and often approves them without further court hearings.
What types of issues can be discussed in mediation?
Mediation helps parties shape tailored solutions to divorce/parenting disputes involving property, time with children, decision-making, transportation, communication, changes in employment, and/or child support. Mediation can address both legal issues and underlying relational issues important to you. Mediation is available to everyone, but is not appropriate in some situations, like those involving a history of domestic abuse, severe alcoholism or drug abuse, or an allegation of serious neglect, physical, or emotional abuse to a minor child.
Who is the mediator and what do they do?
The Court contracts with New Hampshire Certified Family Mediators. They are highly qualified professionals—attorneys, mental health clinicians, etc.—with extensive training in conflict resolution, communication, family law, and ethics. They follow Standards of Practice and confidentiality requirements. Though some are attorneys, the mediator will not offer legal advice. The mediator is neutral about the case’s outcome and will not force parties to reach agreement. The mediator ensures that each party has an opportunity to be heard and understood.
How much does mediation cost and how long does it take?
If the Court assigns mediation to parties in a divorce/parenting case, mediation usually costs $150 per person for up to 4 hours of mediation. Financial assistance is available in eligible circumstances. If parties wish to continue beyond 4 hours, they pay on a sliding scale. A first mediation session of 2 hours can be scheduled within 30 days of First Appearance or judge assignment.
Meditation sounds like the right option for me, what’s next?
Ask the Court to assign you to mediation. The Court will then assign a mediator and send a notification to both parties about the time and place for mediation.
How should I prepare for meditation?
Be willing to share information and consider options. Bring a completed, up-to-date financial affidavit to inform any financial agreements you make. Also, bring a calendar, your work schedule, and any other information you need to make plans for the coming year. If you have an attorney or wish to hire one for mediation, discuss with them what might happen should your case go to Court. Then compare your options in mediation with what might occur in further litigation.