Mandatory Mediation & FMC

You and your spouse are going through a divorce and you have minor children together.  So far, the two of you haven’t reached an agreement on any of the terms of your divorce – and you both want very different things when it comes to custody of the minor children.  It seems like the Judge will ultimately need to decide child custody in your case.

However, you just received an order – signed by the Judge – for you and your spouse to attempt mediation to resolve child custody issues.  Now you’re really confused.  What is mediation?  Why can’t the Judge just decide child custody?  Do you have to attend?  Who provides mediation?  What is the Family Mediation Center?  What issues can be mediated?

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third person, called a mediator, acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two parties.  It is an informal and non-adversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement.  In mediation, decision-making authority rests completely with the parties.  The role of the mediator includes, but is not limited to, assisting the parties in identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement alternatives.

Mediation is private and confidential.  Mediators are not allowed to evaluate the parties or to provide recommendations to the Judge.  At the end of mediation, the mediator is only allowed to report one of the following results to the Judge:

  • That the parties successfully mediated a full or partial parenting agreement (and provide that agreement to the Judge);
  • That the parties participated in mediation but reached an impasse; or
  • The identify of any party who failed to appear or refused to participate in mediation.

Mandatory Mediation Of Child Custody Issues

In most cases, parents are usually in the best position to determine what custody arrangement is in their minor child’s best interest.  In recognition of this, Nevada law requires all parties to a contested child custody proceeding to attend mediation before the Judge will decide child custody issues.  The Judge has authority to order parties to mediation at any time, either on its own motion or upon the request of a party to the case.

The only exception to mandatory participation in mediation is when the Judge has granted an exemption from mediation.  In general, exemptions are not liberally granted.  A party must seek exemption from mediation as early as possible in the case and must explain why mediation is inappropriate.  The Judge may waive mediation in individual cases if there are issues of child abuse or domestic violence, or for other good cause shown.

If the Judge has signed an order for the parties to attend mediation, and any party fails to attend, that party may be subject to contempt proceedings and/or the imposition of sanctions.

Who Provides Mediation?

Parties may attend mediation for their child custody issues either through a private mediator or through the Family Mediation Center (“FMC”).  In the vast majority of cases, parties attend mediation at FMC.

All FMC mediators are required to have the following minimum qualifications:

  • A law degree or a master’s degree in psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, counseling, or related behavioral science;
  • 60 hours of child custody and divorce mediation training, 4 hours of which must be domestic violence training; and
  • Three years of experience conducting child custody mediation.

In addition, all FMC mediators must complete at least 15 hours of continuing education each calendar year and are required to adhere to the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators.

The Family Mediation Center

The FMC is located within the Family Courthouse on Pecos and Bonanza in Las Vegas and is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

All parties must pay their fees in full to FMC before mediation will occur.  FMC mediation fees vary, as parties are charged on a sliding scale.  However, fee waivers are granted for parties who meet minimum income requirements or who receive public assistance.

FMC offers telephone mediation services for any party residing out-of-State.  FMC also has special protocols in place for determining which cases are inappropriate for mediation, and for ensuring parties do not have contact with each other during mediation in cases where domestic violence is an issue.

Although attorneys may attend FMC mediation with their clients, most parties attend without their attorney.  Even if the parties reach an agreement in mediation, their attorneys are entitled to receive the agreement from the mediator and review it before their clients sign it.

What Issues Can Be Mediated At FMC?

FMC is able to mediate the following issues in all contested child custody cases:

  • Legal custody;
  • Physical custody;
  • Timeshare and visitation;
  • Transportation;
  • Special provisions; and
  • Relocation (if applicable).

However, in cases where the Judge has signed an order specifically requiring it, FMC is also able to mediate the following issues:

  • Child support;
  • Spousal support;
  • Fees and allowances;
  • Exclusive possession of a residence; or
  • Any other matter involving money to be paid by one party to another party.

Mediation of child custody issues is a mandatory requirement in all Nevada divorce actions.  Parties are not required to come to an agreement in mediation.  However, a successful mediation can result in an agreement which fully resolves child custody issues and saves parties thousands of dollars in litigation expenses.  Don’t go into mandatory mediation without having a clear idea of the child custody arrangement you are seeking, and the impact that arrangement will have on other issues, such as child support and relocation.  Call our experienced Divorce and Child Custody attorneys today.