Mediation provides parents with the unique ability to take complete control of their future. Having complete control is something you lose once you set foot inside the courtroom and rely on a judge or commissioner to decide what’s best for your future and the future of your children. In Utah, most disputes over custody will go to mediation at some point during the litigation process.
Selecting the Best Mediator for Family Mediation in Utah
This probably goes without saying, but selecting the right mediator to perform your custody mediation is essential. There are a few questions you should be asking:
- How much experience do you have mediating family law, divorce, or custody cases? Experience matters and sometimes you have to pay for it. Be willing to pay a little extra for a little more experience. Paying more money up front could save you thousands of dollars. If you hire an inexperienced mediator, and your case doesn’t settle because of it, you may end up spending thousands in attorney fees.
- Are you an attorney that has litigated custody, divorce, and family law cases before? Custody and divorce attorneys that have actually litigated cases have a unique insight into what potential problems can arise for parties after an agreement has been reached. A mediator that has this kind of experience can help you avoid such problems down the road.
- How much experience do you have drafting up settlement agreements? Mediators that are skilled in drafting up settlement agreements that are detailed and easy to understand are very valuable. If your mediator doesn’t have these skills, you may find yourself hiring an attorney to do it for you.
Divorce Mediation in Utah
Utah law mandates that every single divorce case goes to mediation before it goes to trial. The law states, “If, after the filing of an answer to a complaint of divorce, there are any remaining contested issues, the parties shall participate in good faith in at least one session of mediation.” Good faith means that you give an honest, sincere attempt at mediation. Divorcing couples often attend mediation relatively soon after filing a Petition for Divorce. However, in some cases attending mediation too soon ends up being a waste of money. If the parties are so far from coming to an agreement that middle ground looks light-years away, the parties will often attend a temporary orders hearing first. At this hearing, the commissioner will likely order that the parties attend mediation within 90 days.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if mediation fails, or doesn’t result in an agreement, that doesn’t mean it was worthless. Mediation can be a great way for couples to see what the other party cares most about and to see where the big fights are going to be as the case continues. Sometimes the parties may even settle some parts of a case and leave the remaining issues for trial. For example, perhaps Husband and Wife agree on all the property and financial issues: they agree to split retirement, to sell the house and split the equity, divide furniture, etc. However, they cannot agree on custody and parent-time for their children. In this case, they may have their attorneys draft up an agreement on the financial issues but save the custody issues for a trial.
Co-Parenting Mediation Program in Utah
When people refer to the co-parenting mediation program in Utah they’re typically referring to the process outlined in 30-3-38 of the Utah Code. This set of laws provides that when a parent files an action with the court alleging that their parent-time rights have been violated they shall be referred to a mediator. The assigned mediator will meet with the parents and attempt to facilitate an agreement between the parents. In some cases, the parents will be referred to other organizations (i.e. Department of Human Services) who can work with the parties to help solve some of the underlying problems. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the case will be sent to the judge or commissioner who will issue a decision.
Mediation provides an opportunity for parents to agree on terms that are tailored to their lives and their children’s lives. Even when the parties are unable to come to an agreement in mediation, mediation can still be a valuable tool for gathering information and case planning.