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Court Ordered Mediation and Conciliation

Court ordered mediation and conciliation sessions were created to help the parents or interested parties negotiate and come to their own agreement about custody issues. There are different kinds of mediations, some are in front of a judge, and some are not.

My experience without the judge, a clerk of some type, was awful. Instead of asking if we could come to an agreement, she dropped the invisible barrier and seemed to encourage open fire. Once everyone was truly fired up (she had to get a bailif - the guy with a gun attached to his hip), it felt more like a nightmare than anything resembling negotiations. I was a tad shocked. Once words were thrown around the room, and the heat was really on, she said, “I don’t suppose you can agree on anything?” Well duh! Of course not. She didn’t encourage cooperation, she encouraged a fight. Then complained when she got one. Surely she didn’t expect a positive outcome with her technique!

I think, way back to the first mediation meeting, that we might have been able to come to some type of agreement had the mediator actually wanted to help us get there. I have definite thoughts about how I’d do it if I ever got the chance to go back to that first meeting. I’d stop everything cold and mediate it myself, never letting anyone forget the objective, which is to find the best possible outcome for the child.

The next time we met for meditation, it was in front of a judge. Oh boy! This time, the judge opened the floor and asked each one of us, one at a time, for our stories. She started with the plaintiff, the biological mother, and then moved to the next person in line. This session took nearly two hours. The judge understood that Matthew has emotional issues which he was (and still is) receiving assistance with through his school. She chastised the biological parents for their selfish behavior, clearly recognizing family dynamic issues. She then ordered that Matthew would have a new guardian, called a Guardian ad Litem. At first my heart sank. Why wasn’t I named the guardian ad litem? But then I came to understand that a guardian ad litem (GAL), at least in this case, is a lawyer assigned to speak on Matthew’s behalf, without bias. The GAL has a responsibility to learn as much about each of the parents, the child, and his/her various environments (school, daycare, extended family, etc.) Generally the parents (or involved parties such as the guardian) are required to pay for the GAL. However, the judge asked only the biological parents for their financial information. She never asked me, which was a relief. When she deemed that neither of the biological parents made enough money, she ordered the GAL to work pro bono (for free). She then set the next mediation nearly 2 months later, enough time for the GAL to gather information and report findings.

When the GAL contacted me, I was fully prepared. I had already compiled a contact sheet with all relevant contacts that she might need (who might also qualify as witnesses) and a history statement (see Order of the Court: Guardian ad Litems & Psychological Evalutions). Because I was following the case online through the court’s website, I also signed and submitted waivers for the school and other professions to speak with the GAL. She was thrilled.

The next mediation was scheduled, but the judge didn’t attend. However, the GAL helped us reach a custody order, with the stipulation that the meditions would be continued in front of the judge. That was the day I received full legal and full custody. I’m still not sure how she did it, but the GAL convinced both parents to sign the custody order.

The next mediation hearing was schedule in front of the judge. This time, it was the biological parents, myself, my lawyer, and Matthew’s GAL (also a lawyer). The judge did her best to encourage us to come to an agreement, but Matthew’s mother wasn’t interested. She didn’t even try. By law, she doesn’t have to engage in any meaningful attempts to resolve the issue, she only has to show up. This is true of all plaintifs and defendents. She has a right to a trial. In fact, any party who chooses not to engage in an agreement will force the issue to go to trial, which is when each party has the right to testify, bring witnesses and cross examine the other parties and their witnesses. Before the trial, other parties not listed in the filing cannot attend. They can only attend the trial.

The GAL’s interest lies solely with the child’s best interest. They can request meetings, and attempt to mediate and help the parties come to an agreement without going to trial. Trails, as I’ve overheard, are not really a good gamble if you’re not in a good place with the child. You can lose more than you already have if you haven’t done right by the child.

Since this is the point where we’ve left off, I’ll have to fill you in on the rest as it occurs.

Stay tuned!

~ Lares

One Response to “Court Ordered Mediation and Conciliation”

  1. Martin Mccowen Says:

    Great site.

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Standing in place of the parent, or acting parent, or "in loco parentis" is a big job that comes with a unique set challenges. I created this blog to share my story and my experiences with those who find themselves in a similiar situation. I look forward to hearing your comments!

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