Domestic Relations Mediation
The Mediation Process
With the assistance of trained mediators, parents meet together in an informal setting to decide on a parenting plan for the future which best meets their individual needs and the needs of their children. The mediators are neutral and objective. Their role is to help parents work cooperatively in resolving their disputes so they can carry on with the task of parenting their children. Mediation meetings are confidential and no information from the sessions, except points of agreement, will be revealed by the mediators to any other person including the judge.
Why is Mediation Helpful?
The mediation program was developed to provide people with a choice, leaving the responsibility for making decisions where it belongs-with the family. While every family may not resolve all of the disputes regarding the future care of the children, most have found mediation useful in reaching acceptable agreements which define their ongoing relationships and responsibilities to each other as well as to the children.
While most cases involve divorcing or divorced couples, mediation is not restricted to them. Mediation is also useful in cases involving temporary relationships which ended or are ending in permanent separation. Mediation is helpful and beneficial in that it is the humane approach to conflict resolution
Mediation is a humane approach to conflict resolution.
Conflict is natural and normal, and issues concerning parenting are personal rather than legal issues. Mediation is a method of conflict resolution which can deal effectively with complex human relationships.
Mediation is helpful in the resolution of other issues.
Many attorneys have found that mediation of custody and visitation disputes improves the ability of couples to work successfully through their attorneys to negotiate a settlement of the financial and property issues accompanying separation and/or divorce.
Mediation is a way to begin making joint custody work.
New Mexico law now states "There shall be a presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of a child in an initial custody determination." Joint custody implies that both parents have responsibilities for their children and both will be involved in decision making for them. Mediation is a good way to begin the process of exercising joint-custody in a responsible way.
As defined by the legislature, joint custody does not necessarily imply an equal division of financial responsibility for a child, nor an equal sharing of time with or direct responsibility for the child. Each parent shall have responsibility for the child's financial, physical, emotional and developmental needs, and the parents shall consult with each other on major decisions involving the child before implementing those decisions. A child's interests are best served by having two active, involved, responsible parents.
These standards and other specific legislative concerns are set out in 40-4-9.1 of the New Mexico Statutes. Recognizing that no one knows the children better nor cares more about their welfare than the parents themselves, the legislature has enacted the "Domestic Relations Mediation Act," 40-12-1 to 40-12-6 NMSA 1978. The Act allows a judicial district to establish a domestic relations mediator to provide mediation in domestic relations cases involving children. The program is funded by a $30.00 surcharge on all new or reopened domestic relations cases, and by fees paid by parents involved in the program on a "sliding-scale" basis. The Third Judicial District has an established Domestic Relations Mediation Program within this legislative framework.
What Happens after Mediation?
Following completion of mediation, a proposed parenting plan, prepared by the mediators is sent to the Mediation Office. A copy of this proposed parenting plan, outlining the agreements reached by the parents, is then sent to the attorneys, or the parties, if pro se. Following a ten-day review of the proposed parenting plan, it may be submitted to the Court and entered as an enforceable order of the Court. In the event that parents are unable to reach an agreement, the attorneys and Judge are notified that issues remain in dispute and a brief or extensive assessment will be conducted. The fact that some parents are unable to reach an agreement is not viewed as a failure. Mediation is hard work, and parents completing the process demonstrate commitment and concern for the well-being of their children.
A return to mediation by parental agreement or referral by an attorney or agent of the Court is possible, when necessary, to help with such changes.
For additional information on Domestic Relations Mediation, contact Lisa Betancourt, at 575.523.8267.