What is the Family Mediation Center and Return Hearing?
So who gets the kids?
That’s one of the most significant issues divorcing spouses struggle with. The court prefers both parents should be active participants in the child’s upbringing. It favors joint child custody whenever possible.
Sometimes that just isn’t possible.
When couples cannot agree before presenting their cases to the judge, the court requires them to attend mediation at the Family Mediation Center.
Nevada established a mandatory mediation program for Clark County Family Courts. The details are in NRS 3.475. According to that section,
All parties filing an answer for domestic contested child custody, access or visitation disputes must attend mediation prior to the hearing or trial of their matter. The mediation process will function independent of any other court proceedings. In the event there are issues of child abuse or domestic violence involved, or if one party is living out of state, a waiver excluding mandatory mediation may be filed.
At the initial hearing after filing for divorce involving children (or custody), the Judges of the Family Division will order the parents to the Family Mediation Center. At this point, the judge explains that as a neutral 3rd party, the mediators will help work on a custody schedule. This custody schedule focuses on what is in the best interest of the children.
The Judge will hand each couple and their attorney a slip or referral for FMC and at the close of the hearing referring them to FMC. The Parties and their attorneys will go down to the first floor of the Family Courthouse and register for FMC following this referral.
The post-registration process is simple. A date is set, and the parents attend mediation without their divorce attorneys. They attempt to resolve the child custody portion of their divorce through an agreement.
A trained mediator sits down with each parent and helps the couple work through the process.
Most of the time, couples reach an agreement on the majority of the issues. Issues like:
- Legal custody
- Holiday visitation
- Custody Schedule
If the parents reach a full agreement, then the parents will have resolved all the aspects of custody including legal custody and a complete child custody visitation schedule.
If the parents are successful in resolving physical custody, then they may also be able to address significant issues such as child support and the tax deduction each year that comes with filing their federal income tax returns.
If the parents resolve physical custody, then child support is typically set pursuant to the designation of physical custody.
For example, if the parents agree to primary physical custody, then pursuant to NRS 125B.070 (b)(2) and NRS125B.080 (5), it becomes a straight statutory formula where the non-custodial parent pays:
- 18% for one (1) child
- 25% for two (2) children
- 29% for three (3) children
- 31% for four (4) children
- +2% for each additional child above four children
There are deviating factors downwards as well, which can include, monthly caps, other children by the non-custodial parent, and travel, just to name a few. For accurate child support calculation of a primary custody situation use our child support calculator.
If the parents agree to a joint physical custody agreement or a 50/50 agreement, then the courts turn to the case law using the Wright v. Osburn. In this, the Nevada Supreme Court held that in 50/50 joint custody cases, child support would offset by income. The parent with the higher income would pay support to the parent with the lower income.
For example, let’s say a couple has one child. If one parent’s gross income is $3,000.00 per month, then 18% of that amount is $540.00. If the other parent’s gross income is $2,000.00 per month, then 18% of that amount is $360.00.
The formula calculations the appropriate amount by subtracting the amounts as follows: $540.00-$360.00 = $180.00 per month in child support
Whether the parents reach a full or partial agreement, the FMC will type up a full or partial parenting agreement. This parenting agreement gets presented to each side at the next court date, which is the Return Hearing from FMC.
Parents or their divorce attorneys can receive copies of the drafts of the parenting agreements to review prior to the hearing. Divorce attorneys like to make sure the agreement is what the parents agreed too at the FMC.
At the return hearing, the judge will know whether the couple came to a full or partial agreement.
Assuming both parents agree to the terms on the paper and it is a true and accurate representation of what they agreed upon at the Family Mediation Center, then each parent and their divorce attorney will sign the agreement in open court.
This agreement becomes part of the final Decree of Divorce and or Custody/Paternity Decree. That will depend on what type of the couple filed.
Many time the parents attend the Family Mediation Center meeting and just cannot agree to anything. It’s hard to agree even when they work in good faith to resolve the child custody issues.
Disagreements are not uncommon. Most people going through a divorce will not see eye to eye on every case.
In this situation, as long as both parents attend the mediation, the Court will try other avenues. This is either a Senior Settlement Judge Conference or a Settlement Conference with another sitting Family Court Judge.
The divorce case cannot proceed if one or both parents refuse to attend the Family Mediation Center meeting. It is mandatory.
Keep in mind the mediators cannot force you to agree to anything. They merely try to help the couple find what arrangement is in the best interest of their child.
The entire theme of the FMC process and Return Hearing is for the parents to reach an agreement that is best for the children. The courts will make every attempt to resolve the case through some mediation process.
If the couple exhausts all the mediation options, then the parents and their attorneys will start preparing for an evidentiary hearing. An evidentiary hearing is where a judge will listen to evidence. After hearing all the evidence, he or she will make a final custody decision.
For more information on child custody, download our Las Vegas Child Custody Guide.