What is domestic relations mediation?
Mediation is a process in which parents talk about issues related to parenting plans for their children with the help of a neutral third party. Mediators do not take a side or decide whether a parent is right or wrong. They do not make decisions about your case or give legal advice.
Mediators do help parents listen to each other’s position and keep conversations focused on children. Mediators may also have ideas about how other parents have dealt with situations similar to yours.
Mediators at Family Court Services do not mediate child support or financial issues. Private mediators in the community may mediate financial matters. OJD Court Connected Mediators
Why should I consider mediation?
Research shows that children do better after separation or divorce if their parents are able to cooperate and keep conflict to a minimum.
- Mediation can help parents improve their communication and make agreements that help reduce conflict.
- Mediation also helps keep parents in charge of decisions about their children.
- Mediation in Multnomah County is free and confidential and can help parents avoid the stress and cost of a trial.
Who can use mediation services at FCS?
If you have children under 18 and live or have a custody case open in Multnomah County, you can use mediation at any time.
FCS is a safe and respectful space for parents. We honor all aspects of people and families, including race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, age, size and ability.
Is mediation required in Multnomah County?
State law requires all parents to know about the option of mediation. In Multnomah County, parents who have filed a custody or divorce case with the court will be required to attempt mediation before they go to court.
Exceptions can be made in some circumstances, for example, domestic violence (see “What if there is domestic violence in my situation?", further down this page).
However, we believe that the sooner parents mediate, the better they do at keeping conflict to a minimum and staying out of court. You can use our mediation service voluntarily, before you file anything with the court, or if you do not plan to file anything with the court. You can also use our mediation services if the Court has issued an Order for Mediation.
What does mediation cost?
Mediation for parents or parties to cases involving children in Multnomah County is free.
Is mediation confidential?
State law protects the confidentiality of mediation and Family Court Services mediators do not testify in court about what happens in mediation. There are limits to confidentiality where the safety of adults or children is concerned. Staff will talk about mediation privacy and its limitations with you the first time you come in for mediation, and answer any questions you may have.
Who are the mediators?
Family Court Services mediators have training in mediation and advanced training in child custody and parenting time mediation.
All of our mediators also have many years of experience working with children and families going through separation and divorce and other difficult family situations.
In addition, all FCS mediators meet Oregon’s state requirements for Court-Connected Domestic Relations Mediators under the Chief Justice Order No. 05-028.
What if there is domestic violence in my situation?
In mediation, it is important that you feel free and safe to talk about your wishes and concerns. When there has been domestic violence between parents, it may be difficult for a parent to feel safe enough to negotiate with the other parent.
If you are afraid for your safety, mediation may not be the right choice for you. In that case, you may ask a judge to waive the requirement for mediation by filing a request for mediation to be waived. Email the Legal Resource Center to learn more, or call them at 971-236-8670 and leave a message.
Many parents that have experienced domestic violence do still choose to mediate. If you would like to use mediation to try to work out a plan for your children but have some concerns about your safety, please call us and talk with us about how to make mediation a safe process for you. Remember that parents can end mediation at any time if you do not feel safe or comfortable.
What if we have a restraining order or a no contact order between us?
If you have a restraining order related to domestic violence, you can mediate if the period of time when the respondent can contest the restraining order has passed.
If you have a no-contact order in a criminal case, you must get permission from the probation officer or judge that has the authority to allow contact for the purpose of mediation.
In either case, you may use mediation to negotiate custody and parenting time. You may not use it to negotiate the restrictions around contact between you and the other parent.
Does mediation work?
Many of the parents that come to mediation, reach agreement on some or all of the issues between them. Many parents report that mediation gave them a chance to understand the other parent’s position and concerns, even when they did not agree.
Research shows that parents that mediate have less conflict and return to court less in the future, even when the did not reach agreement in mediation.
Do I need a lawyer?
Mediation is not a substitute for legal advice or representation. FCS encourages all parents to get advice from a lawyer if possible. We also recognize that many parents in domestic relations cases are representing themselves because they cannot afford a lawyer or do not choose to retain a lawyer. There are some low cost legal resources available in Multnomah County.
How many sessions will we need?
Some parents only need one session. Some need more. It depends on the number and complexity of the issues the parents want to resolve. FCS will provide mediation appointments for as long as both parents need them and are still using the time to work on resolving custody and parenting time issues.
Can another person attend the appointment?
Third parties – friends, family members, new partners – may not participate in mediation unless both parents and the mediator agree. It is usually not a good idea to bring a new partner to your mediation session. It may make the other parent uncomfortable and set the wrong tone for mediation.
If you need to have someone attend with you for accessibility or safety concerns, or for emotional support, try to think of someone safe and neutral that will not upset the other parent.
Generally, lawyers don't attend mediation unless both parents want them there and you have discussed this with your mediator ahead of time.
Should my children attend the appointment?
FCS does not include children in mediation and children should not be exposed to the conversations in mediation. It’s recommended you have someone else caring for your child when you are having a mediation session.
Do you provide mediation in languages other than English?
We provide mediation through contracted interpreters in ASL and other languages upon request. There is no additional charge to clients for interpretation services. If you need an interpreter, it is very important that you call and let us know at least two weeks ahead of your appointment.
Is mediation at FCS my only option?
Our mediation services are one option for resolving child custody and parenting time issues. Private mediators are also available. Multnomah County Circuit Court offers a list of private mediators that have appropriate training and meet State requirements for Court-connected mediators. They can be found on the Multnomah County Circuit Court's website.
Private mediators do charge for their services.
How do I schedule mediation?
You can schedule mediation by calling Family Court Services at 503-988-3189.
What should I expect at the first appointment?
In the first appointment, the mediator will:
- Explain the mediation process to help you decide if mediation is right for you and whether you want to proceed with the mediation appointment.
- Review a Mediation Statement of Understanding to make sure that you and the other parent understand the ground rules for mediation.
If you do not have time to deal with all of the issues that you and the other parent need to discuss, you may schedule additional mediation appointments at no charge.
How do I prepare for my first appointment?
The most important thing is to remember that mediation is a negotiation process. Negotiation works best when each person is acting in good faith. It is also helpful for each person to have given some thought to possible areas of compromise.
For your first appointment, you should have:
- Your ideas and thoughts about the best plan for your child(ren).
- If you are trying to negotiate a change in an existing order, it may be helpful to have a copy of that order.
Mediation is not a hearing or a trial, so it is not necessary to bring any supporting documents.