Vernon County Courts - Divorce/Family

 

Introduction

Divorce is a time of change for families. Plans for the children, division of property and financial arrangements all need to be worked out. Divorce is also a time of great emotional upheaval. These changes and emotions can result in conflicts between family members. How these conflicts are resolved can influence a family’s adjustment to divorce.

Mediation is one way for family members to resolve their own conflicts during and after divorce. The mediator, a neutral professional, helps you clearly define the issues in dispute and tone down the communication process so a rational discussion can take place and agreements can be reached. The mediator does not make decisions for the family but helps you make decisions you believe are in everyone’s best interest.

Mediation may not work for all families. You must want to resolve these issues and be willing to work toward that goal.

Mediation is defined by state statute as a confidential and cooperative process involving the parties and a mediator, the purpose of which is to help the parties by applying communication and dispute resolution skill, define and resolve their own disagreements with the best interest of the children as paramount consideration.

Why Mediation?

While the court system is very adept at making decisions, the courtroom may be a poor place for either one of you to fully express your concerns. Frequently matters are decided, but problems and needs remain. In the emotionally charged atmosphere around divorce and separation, it is often difficult, if not impossible, for two sides to effectively communicate and respond to those issues where some interests are shared and others opposed.

Here’s why mediation is the preferable method to resolve most disputes:

  • Most people are capable of problem solving.
  • Most people want to participate in making those major decisions that will affect their lives and the lives of the other members of their family.
  • Mediation offers you a way to resolve conflict by finding the solution most suited to your needs.
  • Mediation requires a certain amount of honest effort, much less than the emotional and financial demands of litigation.

When you look to the court as a last resort, you promote the misconception that this is a final activity. Unfortunately, the court’s decision may be only one step in a long process that can deplete your financial resources and further alienate family members.
Instead of becoming the “last step,” the courtroom scene may become one of many steps along the way. Mediation, in concept, is designed to offer you the opportunity to avoid the courtroom “step(s)”.

When is mediation involved?

You may be referred to the Family Court Counseling Service by the Circuit Court or Family Court Commissioner in these instances:

  • When there is a contested court action, whether on initial determination or modification of an existing court order, which affects legal custody and/or physical placement of a child.

 

  • When parents involved in an ongoing court action indicate to the Court or the Family Court Commissioner that they want to have joint legal custody and physical custody, but need some assistance in coming to an agreeable arrangement.

 

  • When a parent objects to the Court to the movement of a child within or out of the state (767.327).

 

  • When parents indicate to the Family Court Commissioner or Court that they both want to make some changes in their legal custody or physical placement arrangement but need some assistance in coming to an agreement.

 

  • When the Family Court Commissioner or Court is notified by a parent that there is a problem relative to the periods of physical placement of a child or a person with placement rights or physical custody notifies the Commissioner of such a problem.

In the first three situations described above, one session of mediation is required by law.

What issues are discussed in mediation?

The mediator is only permitted to discuss the issues of custody and physical placement of children during the mediation process. The issues of property division, maintenance and child support are only discussed if they directly relate to the issues of custody and legal placement and both parties agree to consider one or more of those issues in mediation.

What about the Children?

Divorce is difficult for everyone, especially children. It can be very comforting for children to see their parents working together to resolve issues rather than fighting and competing over them. In some cases, children may be invited to participate in mediation so that parents can consider the children’s needs and feeling as plans are made that will directly affect them.

What does it cost?

Court connected mediation services are usually provided free of charge for the first session. The cost of subsequent sessions is shared by the parties and may be requested before the session. Mediation is often less costly, both emotionally and financially, than litigation.

Are agreements reached in Mediation legally binding?

Mediation agreements may be written up by the parties and the mediator as an informal working agreement or filed with the court as a legal contract. If your agreement is incorporated into a court order or divorce decree it is legally binding and subject to the approval of the judge. A mediated agreement may be more flexible than a court ordered solution because it can be changed by mutual agreement as the needs of your family and children change over time. Any change to an agreement previously approved by a judge must be filed with the court to be legally binding.

What if we cannot work it out?

The mediation process may not resolve all issues but even partial agreements can help you narrow the issues and limit the time and expense of going to court. A time-out from mediation and individual or couple counseling may help you return to mediation and resolve the remaining issues. Issues that cannot be resolved completely in mediation can be returned to the court for resolution.

Are there any exceptions?

The court might determine that it is inappropriate to attempt mediation based upon presented evidence that there has been child or spousal abuse, that either party is impaired by alcohol or drug abuse, or that either party’s health or safety would be endangered by attending the mediation session.

In those cases where mediation is required by law, the Family Court Commissioner will not make a referral to Family Court Counseling Services if written proof is provided that an acceptable alternate provider of mediation has met or will meet with the parents

Who is involved in mediation?

Usually only the parties and children are involved in mediation. Your attorneys and the attorney for the child (Guardian ad Litem) are generally not involved.

Confidentiality?

All statements made to the mediator are confidential by law. The mediator will not be permitted to testify in court at any time in any proceeding involving the parties. You may waive this confidentiality, but both parties’ consent is necessary before the waiver can be accepted by the court.

Who decides if mediation is over?

The mediator has the power to suspend or terminate the mediation if he or she determines that a party will not cooperate or mediation is not appropriate.

What if mediation doesn't work?

If the mediator finds it inappropriate to continue the mediation of those cases assigned as the result of court action, the parties and the court are so informed by the mediator, and mediation stops. Mediation can stop at any time.

About Mediation

It is important to remember that family conflicts are natural and normal, particularly in light of the strong feelings related to divorce. Conflicts that linger over time can hinder a family’s adjustment to divorce. How conflicts are resolved can also affect the adjustment process. Settlements that are reached by one party winning and the other losing rarely last. That kind of resolution usually creates additional conflict.

The mediation process redefines conflict as a family problem rather than one person’s problem. The emotions of divorce are effectively managed so that they do not hinder the communication process. Better communication leads to better agreements. Consequently, solutions are reached by the productive airing of grievances so that your needs can be addressed and solutions will satisfy everyone.

Center Point Counseling
210 Airport Road
PO Box 189
Viroqua, WI, 54665
608-638-7420
 
THE CLERK OF CIRCUIT COURT AND STAFF ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GIVE LEGAL ADVICE