In West Virginia, a court might require that parents dealing with child custody issues attend mediation sessions. While mediation is not ordered in every situation, for many parents who struggle to reach an agreement on their parenting plan and other child-related issues, it might be the next step.
How does the court-ordered mediation process work?
The court does a pre-screening to determine if the family’s situation is appropriate for mediation. Once this is established, the court then assigns a court-approved family court mediator to the parents. The mediation sessions are paid for by the parents, with a rate set based on the parents’ combined income for the year. In cases where the parents cannot afford to pay, there are volunteer mediators.
During court-order mediation, parents work with the mediator, who is a neutral third party, through the issues they are having when it comes to agreeing to a parenting plan and other child custody issues. The mediator is a neutral third party who does not take either side and instead facilitates the communication and negotiation process for the parents. While the mediator does not make any decisions for the parents, the mediator can help them with a variety of things, including:
- Listening to each party’s position
- Encouraging the parties on how to communicate effectively so they can reach an agreement
- Providing information about the options available to both parties
Once the parents reach an agreement, the parenting plan agreement becomes a written document signed by both parents and submitted to the court for final approval.
When is mediation not required?
Mediation may not be required where there is a history of mental illness, substance abuse, neglect, child abuse or domestic abuse. It might also not be required if the court establishes that there is a significant difference in the power dynamics between the parents.