This is about mediation of divorce issues in Alaska, including when and whether mediation is mandatory, who pays for it, and the required credentials for mediators for divorce issues in Alaska.
- Is mediation mandatory? When?
- Who pays for mediation?
- What are the requirements for who can act as mediator?
Mediation is a process in which a neutral and independent person is hired by the parties to attempt to reach a voluntary and mutually agreeable resolution of their differences. Mediation has become more widely used by families in an attempt to resolve their issues and bypass litigation, which can be extremely stressful and expensive. A recently enacted court rule gives a judge the power to order mediation in domestic cases when the court determines that mediation may result in a fair settlement. However, the court normally will not send a case to mediation when domestic violence has occurred between the parties unless the victim of the violence consents to mediation.
Mediators are private individuals who need not be attorneys. In certain circumstances, parties can bring attorneys into the mediation sessions. A mediator’s job is to attempt to reach agreement between the parties. Mediation is not binding: either party can terminate the mediation process at any time and resolve the dispute through litigation. A mediator is not a judge and can not make orders. If an agreement is reached in mediation, attorneys can assist the parties in understanding the consequences of the agreement and in drafting legal documents for court approval of the agreement reached.
One benefit of mediation is that parents who work together to resolve their problems can learn the tools to co-parent their children more effectively. The process of mediation is normally confidential, and statements made in the process can not generally be used later against a party in court if the mediation sessions fail to produce an agreement.
Under Alaska Law the court has the power to order that the parties engage in personal or family counseling or mediation. In the order, the court shall provide for the payment of the costs of the counseling or mediation. However, the court may not order or refer parties to mediation or family counseling under if a domestic violence protective order is in effect, with certain exceptions.
The court can issue an order in its discretion as to who is to pay for mediation, and parties may hire private mediators to assist them in resolving their issues. There has been a federally funded mediation project in some areas in which low cost mediators are appointed by the court who can assist parties in cases involving custody issues. In those cases, the parties can also work out other divorce issues.
Private mediators need not be attorneys, although some family law lawyers do provide mediation services. If the parties agree, a Superior Court judge can assist parties in their attempt to settle the issues, serving in the role as mediator to assist the parties.