Domestic Relations Mediation
In mediation, parties work with a neutral facilitator who directs and moderates their discussion of the issues in their divorce, to help them reach agreement. The issues may include property settlement, parenting and support of children, spousal support, as well as other matters. Mediation often results in settlement.
Participation in Mediation
More than 90% of all cases reach a settlement without a trial. Mediation promotes settlement at an earlier stage in the process, often resulting in savings of time as well as legal expenses. Mediation promotes cooperative parenting.
Compared to other kinds of dispute resolution, such as trials and court hearings, people who participate in mediation are usually more satisfied with the results they obtain.
The Court has the power to order you to participate in mediation, whether or not you agree. Some cases are not appropriate for mediation. For example:
- Are you subject to a personal protection order?
- Are you involved in a child abuse and neglect proceeding?
- Are you a victim of domestic abuse?
- Are you unable to negotiate for yourself?
- Will your health or safety be endangered by mediation?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your case may not be appropriate for mediation. For more information go to the State Court Administration Office (SCAO) Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Victims of Domestic Violence
A determination will be made as to whether mediation is appropriate. For additional information about domestic abuse, please contact Safehouse Center at 734-995-5444.
When Mediation Takes Place
Mediation can begin whenever the parties are ready. Many families find that it makes sense to complete mediation and reach agreement before they file a lawsuit.
Rules Governing Mediation
When mediation is ordered by the Court, it is governed by Michigan Court Rule 3.216. By mutual agreement of the parties and the mediator, the mediator may give the parties a written recommendation for settlement of any issues that remain unresolved at the conclusion of mediation. This process is called "Evaluative Mediation" and is governed by MCR 3.216(I).
Lawyer Participate in Mediation
Your ability to achieve a settlement in mediation will be enhanced if you obtain legal advice about your rights and responsibilities from your attorney before you begin to mediate. You may choose to have your lawyer participate in the mediation sessions, or you may choose to mediate without your lawyer present, and to confer with him or her between sessions.
Both parties need independent legal advice. Even if the mediator is a lawyer, ethics require that the mediator maintain neutrality and not give legal advice.
Finding a Mediator
The Washtenaw County Trial Court maintains an Approved Domestic Mediator List (PDF). This list is monitored and maintained by The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Clerk. These approved mediators have completed training programs and have met other requirements established by the Supreme Court.
Use the list to choose a mediator or you may choose a mediator who is not on the list. However, if the Court orders you to mediate and you are unable to agree on a mediator, the ADR Clerk will assign a mediator.
Mediators usually charge on an hourly basis. The parties generally share the cost. This information is available on the ADR Clerk’s Approved Domestic Relations Mediator List (PDF). The Friend of the Court offers mediation for issues of custody and parenting time.
Sliding scale and reduced fee arrangements can be made with private mediators, as well as the Dispute Resolution Center in Ann Arbor. Information is also available from Legal Services of South Central Michigan.
Unable to Agree on a Mediator
If the Court orders mediation and you cannot agree on a mediator, the ADR Clerk will assign the first available mediator from the approved Domestic Mediator List (PDF).
Length of Mediation
The number of sessions needed depends on the number and complexity of issues.
Divorce & Mediation
Divorce proceedings are not delayed while participating in mediation. Even if your family has minor children, if you reach agreement in mediation, the court has the authority to grant your divorce 60 days after the lawsuit is filed if certain criteria are met as required by MCL 552.9f.
Failed Mediation & the Judge
If you are ordered to mediate by the judge, and you do not reach an agreement, the mediator will tell the judge only that mediation was unsuccessful. The mediator is not permitted to provide the judge with any other information.