Many Iowans' only contact with the court system is when a family law problem arises. There may be a divorce or custody action. This type of case can take a long time. It can cost a lot of money and be very emotional and stressful for the family. Therefore, the Iowa courts have looked for other ways to resolve family law disputes.
One way to resolve disputes is through mediation. Many counties in Iowa have mediation for family law cases. Sometimes it is required before you have a hearing in a family law matter.
However, there are times when mediation is not appropriate. The court will usually waive the mediation requirement in such cases. Most of the time, the court will not require mediation if there has been a history of domestic violence and one party requests that mediation be waived. The court will usually not require mediation if it is not practical, such as when one party lives out of state, is in jail, or is not taking part in the court case.
In a mediation session, the parties meet with a mediator, a trained third party, to try to work out an agreement. Mediators can come from many different backgrounds. Some are lawyers, some are counselors, and some are volunteers. The mediator is specially trained to listen to people and to help people reach solutions or compromises. In mediation, each person gets the chance to say what they want and why they want it. They can discuss any feelings or concerns they have. The mediator then tries to help the parties reach an agreement.
Sometimes the mediations take place with everyone in the same room. Sometimes the parties are in different rooms and the mediator moves from room to room. People may go to mediation with a lawyer, but some of the time people go by themselves. Some mediations take only one session. Other times it happens over several sessions.
Many people like the mediation process. It lets people make an agreement on their own that is the best for their family, instead of having a judge decide all of the disagreements. It can reduce the fighting and stress between the parties because they are able to compromise with each other. This benefits the children because it will hopefully let the parents get along better. It can also cost less than a trial. Although mediators charge an hourly fee, many offer a sliding scale fee based on the person's ability to pay. The costs can also be split between the parties based on what they are able to pay.