Understanding the Mediation Process
Mediation is an alternative to litigation, in which the parties are helped by the mediator to decide the outcome of the conflict rather than the court.
For separated parents, mediation provides the opportunity to have an intermediary (a mediator) help them work together in defining their split family makeup versus having a third party (judge) be the final arbiter.
There are two primary options for mediation in Centre County.
One is to use Collaborative Law. There are lawyers who are trained and practice this form of family law, where they work with the parents to negotiate the terms for the separation moving forward without having a third party (the courts) be the final arbiter. Information on lawyers and other professionals who practice collaborative law in Centre County can be found at the Central Counties Collaborative Law Community.
A common option is the Center for Alternatives in Community Justice (CACJ). Parents can go directly to the CACJ (814-234-1059) to request services or may be referred to it by the Court if one of them files a petition for custody. The process when this occurs:
When a parent files a petition for custody, both parents will be directed to attend a regularly scheduled group custody conference at the courthouse. The assigned judge speaks to all attendees, then meets with the parents and/or their lawyers individually. After these meetings, the judge may recommend mediation.
A representative from the CACJ will speak to the parents who are recommended for mediation and ask each of them to fill out one page questionnaire.
If both parents agree to participate, the court orders mediation orientation (normally scheduled within two weeks). At this initial meeting the mediator will provide more information and answer any questions that the parents may have.
If both parents are comfortable with what has been explained in the initial meeting, are prepared to actively engage and formally agree the actual mediation will begin.
Mediation sessions normally last approximately 2 hours. Agreements (Memorandum of Understanding or MOU) are often reached in one session. On average 3 out of 4 mediations result in MOUs. Parents can come back to the CACJ for followup sessions after agreements have been reached if needed.
If mediation has been court ordered, the CACJ will inform the court whether an agreement has been reached or not. Any further information is confidential and will not be released to the court or lawyers unless the parents agree.
Payment for mediations services through the CACJ is determined by an income based sliding scale. To determine the fee you can contact the CACJ via the CACJ Contact Page