Modern Family Matters

What Is Mandatory Mediation and Parent Education, and Why Is It Important in a Family Law Case?

September 06, 2023 with Pacific Cascade Legal Season 1 Episode 108
Modern Family Matters
What Is Mandatory Mediation and Parent Education, and Why Is It Important in a Family Law Case?
Show Notes Transcript

We sit down with Lead Paralegal, Lisa Parsons, to discuss the purpose behind mandatory mediation and parent education classes in a family law case. In this podcast episode, Lisa touches on the following:

·        What is Mediation in a Family Law Case? 

·        When Is Mediation Mandatory?

·        Is Mandatory Mediation Confidential?

·        Do Parents Need to Come to An Agreement During Mediation?

·        What Are the Benefits of Mediation?

·        What Are Parenting Education Classes?

·        Are Parenting Education Classes Mandatory?

·        What Are Some Things That a Parent Education Class Covers?

·        What Are the Benefits of Parent Education Classes?

If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys, please call our office at (503) 227-0200, or visit our website at https://www.pacificcascadelegal.com.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such.

Intro:
Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast devoted to exploring family law topics that matter most to you. Covering a wide range of legal, personal, and family law matters, with expert analysis from skilled attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcast provides answers, clarity, and guidance towards a better tomorrow for you and your family. Here's your host, Steve Altishin.

Steve Altishin  
I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships here at Pacific Cascade Legal. And today we have our lead paralegal, Lisa Parsons, to talk about what is mandatory mediation and parent education, and why it's important in a family law case. So Lisa, how are you doing today?

Lisa Parsons  
I'm good, Steve, how are you?

Steve Altishin  
I'm doing well. So this is a great topic. Mediation, let's talk about that a little bit. Everybody knows it's where you get together with a mediator. They try to help you resolve your own issues. They don't actually tell you what you have to do. But they're there to help you. They're sort of a neutral third party. And why? Why does that help so much? Issues such as custody, parenting time, even they can talk about spousal support and property division, but especially for this, you know, custody, parenting time, that kind of stuff, that can be a real help to go to a mediator, can't it?

Lisa Parsons  
Yes, exactly. So, like you said, mediation is a cooperative problem solving process with someone who is neutral, who's a third party, who regularly works in this industry and helps facilitate agreements between parties. It's completely confidential. And you're not bound by, you know, discussions that are had while you're with the mediator. So sometimes what will happen is a mediator will make a recommendation or a suggestion, and you often will go back and forth between the parties, kind of negotiating terms of you know, well, I want to have four overnights, a leak or I want to have five overnights and especially when you're talking about custody and parenting time. And they allow you this opportunity to sit down and cooperatively work together and make those decisions together, rather than deferring to a judge who is ultimately going to take that decision making authority away from you.

Steve Altishin  
In a famil law case, it's really kind of unique, because there are times when mediation is actually mandatory, where the court actually tells you, before you get to this case, it needs to be undertaken. When generally does that mediation become mandatory and what cases?

Lisa Parsons  
So in all family law cases that involve custody and parenting time. So that doesn't necessarily just mean a legal separation or divorce that involves children, that also includes cases where you're going back to court to seek a modification of prior judgment related to custody and parenting time. So anytime that there is a dispute that pertains to custody and or parenting time, the court is going to require parties to attempt mediation. And that may be through the county mediation program, each county in Oregon has their own program, or with a private third party mediator that may be selected through your attorney's offices, but this attempt to cooperatively resolve these issues together is required before they will allow your case to continue on to trial.

Steve Altishin  
Are there any cases where it can be waived where you don't have to do it? And I'm specifically thinking about, what if there's abuse issues and you're just, you know, you don't want to be with that person?

Lisa Parsons  
Yes, There absolutely are. Typically, the court will require that you provide information about that, uh, you know, if there's a safety concern, sometimes they will still do mediation in those instances, but it's in a bit of a different format. So instead of having the parties come together, the mediator may be the go between that only has direct contact with each party, but the parties together don't have contact with one another. With mediation. If the parties are in agreement on custody issues or or parenting time and they're able to come up with an agreement on their own, then mediation can also be waived.

Steve Altishin  
And I get a lot of questions about not necessarily what should I say, but what, you know, if I say something to a mediator, if I talk to the mediator in the middle of our mediation, will that get out? I mean, while other people get to know what I said, is it confidential what I say in a mediation?

Lisa Parsons  
It is 100% confidential, even your attorneys are not able to get, you know, a transcript or a recording of what goes on in mediation unless they're a part of that mediation. So what you say, you know, to your mediator, and during your mediation is confidential.

Steve Altishin  
I imagine that helps people just be more open and free to say what they want to say. How about coming to an agreement, the object, obviously, is to try to come to an agreement. But in mandatory mediation, it's mandatory to mediate, but is it mandatory to come to some agreement?

Lisa Parsons  
No, no, you are not obligated to to agree to anything. You know, while you're in that mediation, it can be helpful to ask to have the mediator write up some of the terms that you've been discussing, or, you know, possible agreement, but for our clients, we often recommend that they do not sign anything until their attorney has an opportunity to review it.

Steve Altishin  
And so they can do that they can, they can have an attorney assist them, maybe not in the mediation, but at least the system, so they're not just completely on their own trying to make decisions.

Lisa Parsons  
That's exactly right. So oftentimes, with our clients will recommend that you communicate with your attorney in advance of doing mediation with through the county, there are also some counties in Oregon, that will allow your attorneys to participate if both sides agreed to it. So it's really important to have that conversation in advance of doing your mandatory mediation. And then following up on a you know, the tail end of things and discussing with your attorney, how it went, how you felt, or what agreements you may feel comfortable reaching. 

Steve Altishin  
Yep. So now let's move to parenting education classes. I know there's a lot of folks who just when they hear this, go, What do you mean? I mean, I have to go to a class to get divorced? And so what are parenting education classes? I'm assuming they're not about training you to be a parent, or maybe they are.

Lisa Parsons  
I think a big part of the parent education goal is that it's trying to educate parents on how to communicate with your child about divorce, or, or what is going to happen post divorce, the difficulties that children often encounter in those situations, and providing parents with tools and feedback on how to handle things going forward. I think, especially in these high, you know, emotional or conflict situations, like a divorce or modification case that involve children, sometimes parents emotions, get the best of them, and they forget to put the child first or the child's best interests, you know, at the forefront of these decisions. And so it's really important to provide parents with education and information about the impact of these types of cases. So like you briefly touched on in Oregon, our courts require that all parents with children, I believe it's under 17, are required to take a pet parent education course, some of our counties will require that you take it again, if you seek to modify after a certain number of years. Others say as long as you've taken it, once you're good, you'll never have to take it again. But it's really important to find out what your county requires. And if you've never taken it before making it a priority and taking it you know, at the very beginning of your case.

Steve Altishin  
If you don't take this parent education class, what can happen? Can the court say, Well, we're not going to sign your decree? I mean, what can happen if you just say, I'm not gonna take it?

Lisa Parsons  
Well, you're right, the first thing that's going to happen is the courts going to refuse to sign your judgment. They will not sign any judgment that involves children if both parties have not completed the class. What may be required when someone does absolutely refuse is that you have to file additional documents that ask the court to waive it or defer that obligation. And then the other party is basically not able to go back to court on these issues. Until they complete that parent education, the courts not going to allow them the voice the opportunity again, until they go through that process. So frankly, it's just easier to take it in the beginning. Usually it's not terribly, you know, expensive, and it's easier to get it done and out of the way early on.

Steve Altishin  
If one party defaults, I mean they don't answer, they don't do anything, they don't respond to your filing, does the other party still have to take the classes?

Lisa Parsons  
They do.

Steve Altishin  
Or even if they agree, do they still have to take the class?

Lisa Parsons  
Yes, they do. So in both instances, the party that has appeared in court isn't in default, they are still required to take it individually. And even if they agree on all of the terms of parenting time or custody, you're still required to take this parent education class.

Steve Altishin  
I like that. It's kind of just sounds to me like, well, it's called a parent education class. Looking to the future, it's more of a co-parent education class.

Lisa Parsons  
I think that's a great way of looking at it.

Steve Altishin  
Yeah. Well, Lisa, thank you for talking to us today. This was really really helpful information both about mandatory mediation and about parenting education, and why it really is important in a family law case. So thank you for being here.

Lisa Parsons  
Thanks for having me, Steve.

Steve Altishin  
You bet. And thank you, everyone for joining us. If anyone has any further questions, feel free to contact our firm and we can get you connected with someone who can help. Until then, stay safe, stay happy and be well.

Outro:
This has been Modern Family Matters, a legal podcast focusing on providing real answers and direction for individuals and families. Our podcast is sponsored by Pacific Cascade Legal, serving families in Oregon and Washington. If you are in need of legal counsel or have additional questions about a family law matter important to you, please visit our websites at pacificcascadelegal.com or pacificcascadefamilylaw.com. You can also call our headquarters at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Modern Family Matters, advocating for your better tomorrow and offering legal solutions important to the modern family.