What is mediation?
Mediation is a process that uses a neutral third-party, called a mediator, to help parents agree on matters relating to custody and visitation of their child without a trial. Sometimes a judge may refer parties to mediation, and sometimes the parties may request mediation voluntarily to avoid going to court. This process is also sometimes called “alternative dispute resolution” or ADR in the NY courts.1 For a list of community dispute resolution centers, please see the NY Courts website. Generally, if the judge refers you to mediation, then no fees are charged.
Note: If you are the victim of domestic violence, make sure the judge knows this. Generally, mediation is not a good option in cases where there has been domestic violence because in mediation, you may be required to interact directly with the abuser and the dynamics of power and control that are present in domestic violence situations do not allow for an even mediation. If the judge finds that there has been domestic violence, then s/he cannot require you to go to mediation.
For divorce proceedings, NY has a Collaborative Family Law Center that gives divorcing couples a way to deal with issues that need to be resolved as part of the divorce with the help of lawyers, but without going to court.2 This is similar to mediation, but is only available for couples going through divorce. For more information, please see this brochure. However, like typical mediation, this is not a good option for domestic violence victims.
1 See NY Courts website for more information about ADR in the family courts; see also NYC Family Court Custody/Visitation Mediation Program
2 See the NY Collaborative Family Law Center brochure