If you have a case that involves a dispute regarding parental rights and responsibilities in North Dakota, you will be required to participate in the Family Mediation Program.
This program was designed by the Court to help resolve custody and parenting time disputes through mediation to minimize family conflict, encourage shared decision-making, and support healthy co-parenting relationships.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which an unbiased mediator (typically an experienced family law attorney) attempts to help parties reach a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation gives each party the opportunity to have his/her say and to help them develop a better understanding of the other’s concerns and perspectives.
The job of the mediator is to listen to each party’s position, give feedback based on their professional knowledge and experience, and relay that to the other side. The hope is that through mediation, the parties can reach a mutually beneficial agreement rather than going straight to a hearing or trial.
Mediation is VOLUNTARY.
While the Court may require parties to attend mediation, parties are never forced to involuntarily reach an agreement. While the Court gives parties six free hours of mediation, there is nothing preventing a party from leaving at any time.
Mediation is CONFIDENTIAL and INADMISSIBLE.
What happens at mediation, stays at mediation. Mediators are forbidden from revealing anything said by a party except as consented to by the parties or as permitted by law. An example of this is if a party threatens to commit a crime, the mediator can and shall report said threats. However, if a party makes a statement about what they will use at trial, the mediator is forbidden from sharing said information unless directed to do so.
Under North Dakota Rules of Evidence 408, talks of negotiation are inadmissible to either prove or disprove the validity of a disputed claim or to impeach a prior inconsistent statement or contradiction. This means that neither party can disclose to the Court what is said or agreed to at mediation except to prove a witness’s bias/prejudice, negate a contention of undue delay, or prove an effort to obstruct a criminal investigation or prosecution.
What is the Mediation Process?
The following cases are referred to the North Dakota Mediation Program within 10 days of filing an action:
- Any civil proceeding in which there is a dispute or an unresolved issue regarding parental rights and responsibilities, relocation of a child, or grandparent visitation (this is included regardless of whether it is an original proceeding for a divorce, separation, or paternity in which the issue may appear);
- Post-Judgment proceedings to modify parental rights and responsibilities, requesting to move a child from the state, or seeking grandparent visitation;
- Certain guardianship proceedings; and
- Any other case a judge deems appropriate.
Once the case has been referred to the Mediation Program by the district court clerk, a judge will issue an order assigning a mediator to the case. A notice will be sent to the parties providing the mediator’s name and contact information. The parties have 21 days to contact the mediator and to schedule a pre-mediation orientation.
Once the parties have scheduled orientation, the mediator will send out potential mediation dates. Parties will have the option of having their attorney present or attending mediation alone.
If an agreement is made, the parties may sign a stipulation and file it with the court, along with a proposed order.
The Family Mediation Program is a great way for parties to salvage their co-parenting relationship and to come to an agreement that is beneficial for all. Furthermore, it saves the parties the time and expense of proceeding with a trial.
For more information, contact our specialized family law attorneys at Rosenquist Law Office at (701) 775-0654 or email us at email@example.com to schedule your free consultation.