Monday, February 18, 2013

Indiana DRC may consider precursory mediation in contested child custody cases

The Domestic Relations Committee of the Indiana Judicial Conference will be considering ideas for future projects in 2013 along with the review of the Indiana Child Support Guidelines set to begin in 2014. I will be providing a report to the DRC at the 15 March 2013 meeting on the state of precursory mediation in Indiana child custody cases. Pursuant to local rules in 10 counties there is already framework available to judges for some form of compulsory mediation. Those counties are Allen, Clark, Marion, Monroe, St Joseph, Shelby, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh, Vigo and Wayne.

Here is what I propose. Upon filing for dissolution of marriage or paternity the petitioner must submit a custody and parenting time form with proposed arrangements. A copy goes to the responding party who submits one in response. The case is then referred to a mediator who analyzes both proposals then meets briefly with the parties to attempt further development of an agreement. A report by the mediator is submitted to the court detailing areas of agreement and dispute. This all occurs within 60 days of filing.

The idea was well received and resulted in me being told to do the leg work. I am now to accumulate information on mediation efforts and local rules throughout the state, the implementation process, costs, efficacy and etc. At the next meeting I am to present findings on those aspects the DRC. They will then consider whether to make this a project. I thought I was going to escape with having only tossed out the idea.

In preparing this report I would like to speak with any parents in those counties who have participated in the mediation process. I would also like to discuss with any judges the implementation of the mediation rules and the effects they have witnessed. If you have gone through court ordered mediation in one of these counties or can try to locate a judge to speak with me about his or her experience with mediated cases please contact me. One judge I've spoken with summarized succinctly a contributing factor to parental conflict when she said, “I find that in my cases the parents that have attorneys fight more than those without.” This is a driving concept behind my plan for immediate mediation before attorneys get involved and the parties appear in an adversarial posture in court. It is in the immediate financial interest of attorneys as a collective to perpetuate conflict and promote additional courtroom appearances just as Cynthia Dean has done when she filed an objection to mediation.

Members of the public are invited to attend a meeting of the DRC or get more involved in the rule making process. Please let me know if you care to do either.

For information on FREE mediation services please visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me.

If you would like to follow my activities more closely then send a friend request to my Political FaceBook page.

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More information about child custody rights and procedures may be found on the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates website.

©2008, 2013 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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