Conflict is a normal part of our daily life. For most people, conflict is often threatening and stressful. However, the process of resolving conflict can lead to creative solutions for the changing needs of family members. Even in the face of anger, fear and hurt, parents can reach agreements that balance the interests of each family member. It is important for parents to renegotiate their roles within the new family structure to reduce the level of parental conflict.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a problem-solving process. Parents work with a trained mediator to define the issues, discuss choices and reach agreements that are best for the family. The mediator is not an advocate for either parent and will not make decisions for you. The mediator will help you communicate more effectively to create a new cooperative parenting relationship.
Per Wisconsin statutes, the Court must refer all disputed physical placement and/or legal custody issues to mediation prior to formal court intervention.
Who May Use Mediation?
Any parents who have a Divorce or Paternity established in Fond du Lac County may apply at Family Court Services for mediation services.
How does Mediation Work?
Parents meet with the mediator together in a neutral setting to discuss the child-related issues. The mediator guides the communication process so that everyone's position and priorities will be heard, understood, and considered. Disputed issues will be defined and discussed one at a time to determine available options. It is helpful when parents come into mediation with a cooperative attitude and a degree of flexibility.
Can We Discuss Financial Issues in Mediation?
No. By law, financial issues are not appropriate topics of discussion in the Placement Mediation program.
Can the Mediator Enforce our Current Order?
No. The mediator is not able to enforce placement / custody or child support orders. The mediator also cannot force a parent to spend time with a child.
Will the Mediator Meet with Other People?
No. The mediator will not meet with your children, significant others, family members or other interested parties. The process is confidential and is meant to be for parents only.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
Your mediator cannot offer legal advice to you. While not all parents are represented by an attorney, attorneys are able to advocate for their clients' best interest, help them understand the law, work toward resolution of related financial issues, and assist in completing the legal process. Attorneys do not attend mediation sessions.
Are Agreements Reached in Mediation Legally Binding?
Once an agreement is reached and signed by both parents, it is approved and signed by the court and becomes a court order. This means it is legally binding. Mediated agreements can be changed by mutual agreement at any time.
What if an Agreement Cannot be Reached?
If parents are unable to make a decision regarding physical placement and/or legal custody of the children, the court must first appoint an attorney to represent the children’s best interest (Guardian ad Litem). The court may order a Custody Evaluation. This is an investigation conducted by Family Court Services and the guardian ad litem, who will make a recommendation to the Court regarding the legal custody and / or physical placement of the children.
Fees for the guardian ad litem, psychologist (if ordered), and Family Court Services are most often at the expense of the parties.
What is the Cost of Mediation?
The fee for mediation is $200.00 per family, which is usually split equally between the parties. The cost includes all mediation sessions, preparation and filing of the agreements. Mediation fees may be waived or reduced upon proof of indigence and approval of the Director of Family Court Services. Pursuant to Wisconsin statute, the initial session of mediation is at no cost to the parties.
Settlements reached by one party winning and the other losing rarely last and usually breed additional conflict. Mediation is designed to empower parents to make their own decisions about their children. Fond du Lac County Family Court Services is committed to helping families reduce parental conflict and to giving families the skills needed to resolve disputes in a healthy and beneficial way.