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Economic Mediation Program Overview
Contested divorce cases are first reviewed by an early settlement panel (ESP). This panel, made up of two experienced divorce attorneys, will recommend a settlement in the case. If the parties do not agree with the recommendation, and there are unresolved financial disputes after ESP review, the court may order them to participate in economic mediation. Economic mediation can help divorcing couples find common ground to divide shared property and determine support.
Economic mediation is a means of resolving financial issues with a trained, impartial third party. It is designed to facilitate settlements in an informal, non-adversarial environment. Mediators do not represent either party and do not offer legal advice. Parties are encouraged to retain their own attorney for the mediation process. If they do not have an attorney, they may choose someone else to accompany them in mediation.
Benefits of mediation include:
- Confidential proceedings.
- The opportunity for the parties to create their own, mutually acceptable agreement.
- Allowing parties to take an active role in resolving their dispute.
- Saving both parties time and money.
All mediators on the roster of Judiciary-approved mediators have completed 40 hours of mediation training. Mediators on the roster with a domestic violence designation completed training that qualifies them to conduct Domestic Violence Economic Mediation. Mediators are attorneys and other experienced professionals in the financial or mental health fields.
After the first two hours, the mediation costs are paid by the parties.
The first two hours of mediation are free. These two hours include the time it takes for the mediator to prepare for the first session and for the session itself. Travel time is not included in the first two hours and mediators are not allowed to charge for their travel.
During the mediation, the mediator will let you know when the two free hours have been reached. Either party can then choose to end the mediation. If the mediation goes beyond the free two hours, the court decides the amount each party will be responsible for to cover the mediator’s fee.
Economic Mediation and Final Restraining Orders
Generally, the law prohibits mediation when there is an active final restraining order between the parties. The Domestic Violence Economic Mediation Program allows mediation only if the protected party (the person with the restraining order) requests it. The protected party must consent to amending the final restraining order to allow mediation. The protected party may terminate the mediation process at any time and for any reason.
The protected party must initiate the request for economic mediation.
The protected party must
- Read and understand the Frequently Asked Questions for Protected Parties
- Meet with a domestic violence advocate or trained court staff; and
- Complete and file a certification which is a formal request to the court that the case be referred to economic mediation. It is also a request for the court to amend the Final Restraining Order to permit economic mediation. Filing the certification does not guarantee that the court will refer the case to the program.
After reviewing the certification and confirming that the protected party consents to economic mediation, the court will ask the other party if they agree to mediation. If they do not agree, they will be asked to provide an explanation. The court may still decide to refer the case to economic mediation.
If the court refers a case to economic mediation, both parties will work separately with court staff to agree on the selection of a mediator. If they are unable to agree, the court will assign one.
If there is a final restraining order, the parties will not be in the same room for mediation.
Domestic violence economic mediation takes place in a secure room at the courthouse where security is on site, or it may take place on-line using videoconferencing. Domestic violence economic mediation will not be conducted at the mediator’s office or any other location.
The mediator assigned to the case will use a process called “shuttle diplomacy” to facilitate the mediation. This means that each party will be in separate rooms the entire time, and the mediator will communicate with them separately. This eliminates direct communication between the parties. Similarly, if the mediation is conducted online, the parties will be in separate virtual meeting rooms and will not have any contact.
Only mediators who completed domestic violence mediation training are eligible to mediate cases where there is a restraining order between the parties.
The protected party can choose to end mediation at any time.
This program was created to give victims of domestic violence the same opportunity to resolve their case as litigants who do not have a restraining order. If the protected party does not feel comfortable about moving forward with economic mediation, they can let their attorney know. If they do not have an attorney, they can contact the court. This will not be held against them in any way.
The mediator cannot address other issues such as custody or parenting time.
This is prohibited by law and violates provisions of the Domestic Violence Economic Mediation program.
Read the Frequently Asked Questions for Protected Parties and Frequently Asked Questions for Non-Protected Parties for more details about the program.
Mediators by County
Become a Mediator
Mediators must complete the Economic Mediation Results Form after the mediation session.