Your Court-Ordered Mediation

Your Court-Ordered Mediation Orientation

For Union/Snyder:

Your court order from the Seventeenth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, covering Union and Snyder Counties, will instruct you to call the Mediation Program Administrator within 10 days to schedule an appointment. You can contact our office 570-374-1718, Monday – Friday.

When you contact our office, our case coordinator will explain the mediation process to you and answer any questions you have. As soon as all parties in the case have contacted our office, your mediation will be scheduled and you will receive a packet of information about your mediation.

*Please note: The court has ordered each party in mediation to pay a $25 mediation orientation fee. If you are ordered to mediation and the Kids First Program, the fee for both services is $30. The fee is payable in cash or by money order, and is due at the beginning of the mediation orientation session.  If you do not pay the fee, the mediation center is required by the court to report the non-­payment, which could result in the non-­paying party being held in contempt of court.

If you choose to mediate, you will have several options at the end of your mediation session.

  • You may write a custody agreement, which we will submit to the Union or Snyder Court for you.
  • You may write a custody agreement and choose to take it to an attorney before filing it. In this case, we will not file it for you.
  • You may decide to not write a custody agreement and choose to go back to court.
  • You may decide to come back for a second session. There is no additional fee for a second session. Parties may give a donation if they wish.
  • You may decide to withdraw your custody complaint from the Union or Snyder County Court altogether. You may pick up the withdrawal form in our office, or in the Union or Snyder County Courthouse.

For Northumberland:

Your court order from the Eighth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, covering Northumberland County, will instruct you to call the Mediation Program Administrator within 10 days to schedule an appointment. You can contact our office 570-374-1718, Monday – Friday.

When you contact our office, our case coordinator will explain the mediation process to you and answer any questions you have. As soon as all parties in the case have contacted our office, your mediation will be scheduled and you will receive a packet of information about your mediation.

*Please note: The court has ordered each party in mediation to pay a $25 mediation orientation fee. If you are ordered to mediation and the Kids First Program, the combined fee for both services is $30. The fee is payable in cash or by money order, and is due at the beginning of the mediation orientation session.  If you do not pay the fee, the mediation center is required by the court to report the non-­payment, which could result in the non-­paying party being held in contempt of court.

If you choose to mediate, you will have several options at the end of your mediation session.

  • You may write a custody agreement, which we will submit to the Northumberland County Court for you. If all parties agree you would like to cancel your custody hearing in Northumberland County Court, you may include that in your written agreement.
  • You may write a custody agreement and choose to take it to an attorney before filing it. In this case, we will not file it for you.
  • You may decide to not write a custody agreement and choose to go back to court.
  • You may decide to come back for a second session. If you need to postpone your hearing with the Northumberland County Court, you may pick up a continuance form in our office, or at the Northumberland County Courthouse. There is no additional fee for a second session. Parties may give a donation if they wish.
  • You may decide to withdraw your custody complaint from the Northumberland County Court altogether. You may pick up the withdrawal form in our office, or in the Northumberland County Courthouse.

The Mediation Orientation

At the mediation orientation session, you will be given information about how mediation works and any questions you may have about mediation will be answered.  You will then be asked to make a decision whether to mediate.  Here is information in response to frequently-asked questions about mediation:

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process for resolving disputes with the help of one or more trained, neutral third-parties called “mediators.” The center generally uses two co-mediators.

Who are the mediators?

The mediators are Center volunteers who have completed a minimum of 40 hours of training and successfully completed a mediator apprenticeship.

What is the role of a mediator?

A mediator facilitates the dialogue and helps the parties hear each other’s points of view.  A mediator may help the parties to clarify the issues, brainstorm possible solutions, and write out the decisions reached by the parties.

A mediator does not make a decision like a judge or an arbitrator does.  A mediator does not give legal advice or representation.  A mediator does not take sides or tell the parties what to do.  A mediator is not a therapist or a counselor.

Do I need to bring an attorney?

No, you do not need to bring an attorney to the mediation; however, attorneys may participate if the parties agree.  Most people who use mediation to resolve their disputes are not represented by attorneys.  Parties may have any mediated agreement reviewed by an attorney prior to signing it if they so desire.
 
May I bring another person with me to orientation?

No.  Only the people named as parties in the court case may attend the mediation orientation unless all parties who’ve been ordered to attend agree in advance to include other persons.  Under no circumstances are minor children permitted to attend the session.

What are the benefits of mediation?

• Self determination – The parties control the outcome.  Mediation results in either a resolution agreed upon by the parties or no agreement.  The mediators do not tell the parties what to do or make a decision like a judge or arbitrator.

 Convenience – Mediation sessions may be scheduled at various times during the day, early evening and weekends.

 Confidentiality – Mediation is private and confidential.  The center and its mediators will not reveal anything that is said or done during the mediation process unless authorized to do so by the parties, and nothing presented in mediation can be used as evidence in any legal proceeding.  The mediators will not willingly testify in court in regard to the mediation if the parties do not resolve their dispute in mediation and decide to take their dispute to court.  There are some exceptions to the general rule of confidentiality, such as where there is suspicion of child abuse, or threats of harm to self, others, or property.

What happens if we don’t settle the dispute in mediation?

You decide what to do next.  Unless you have agreed otherwise, mediation does not limit your options or impact your legal rights.  Sometimes, mediation opens the door to resolution; even if the parties are not able to reach agreement during the mediation session, they may continue the conversation started during mediation and later reach a resolution on their own.

In the event you decide to mediate after attending the orientation session, the list of issues below are frequently discussed by the parties in custody mediation settings.  You may find it useful to think about whether any of the issues listed or other issues are important matters for you to discuss and, if so, how you feel about them.  Your letter will also include a copy of an agreement to mediate, which you will be asked to sign in the event you decide to mediate.

Finally, please know that if you decide to mediate, the mediation session will take place immediately after the mediation orientation session.  Accordingly, please allow at least two hours for your appointment and plan to have someone else care for your children so that you are able to devote your full attention to the mediation process.  Children may not be brought to the mediation center and left unattended.

 

ISSUES FREQUENTLY DISCUSSED IN CUSTODY MEDIATION SESSIONS

1. Whether one or both parents will have “legal custody.” Legal custody means that a person has access to all medical, educational, psychological, counseling and religious records and information regarding a child or children. Further, all significant decisions regarding a child are made by the parent or parents who have legal custody.

2. Whether the child or children will spend time with each parent according to a schedule and, if so, what the schedule will be.  The sharing of time is referred to as “physical custody.”

3. If one parent would like to make a temporary change in the schedule other than in an emergency situation, how much notice should be given to the other parent?

4. If a schedule is adopted, when and where will the change of physical custody from one parent to the other occur, and may the parents use any other people to bring or pick up the child(ren), such as other family members?

5. Will provisions be made so that each parent will be able to spend vacation time with the child(ren)? If so, will there be a specific time when each parent will be able to vacation with the child(ren) and will the parent having physical custody be required to provide the other parent with travel information in advance of the trip, such as a written itinerary, destination addresses and phone numbers, and flight plans?

6. Will there be arrangements for holidays and birthdays, such as New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Passover, Easter, Mother’s Day, mother’s birthday, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, father’s birthday, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, children’s birthdays, grandparents’ birthdays?

7. Will any provision be made so that parents will cooperate with one another so that the children may attend special events, school events and family events, whenever practicable?

8. Will provision be made for regular phone contact between the child(ren) and the parent who does not have physical custody?

9. What obligation shall each parent have, if any, to notify the other in the event of an emergency that arises when a child is in the parent’s custody? If the parties are to share legal custody, and the parent having physical custody at the time an emergency arises is either unable to attempt contact with the other parent before a decision needs to be made, or is unsuccessful after using all reasonable efforts to contact the other parent, may the parent having physical custody make a unilateral decision necessitated by the emergency circumstances without consulting the other parent?

10. Will the parties acknowledge the importance of the other parent in the lives of the children and agree to further a positive relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent, and avoid speaking negatively about the other parent to the children?

11. Will the parents agree to be respectful of each other’s right to privacy?

12. Will provision be made for grandparents to spend time with the child(ren)?

13. Will there be an agreement as to which parent is entitled to claim the child(ren) as a dependent on tax returns?

14. If a dispute regarding custody arises in the future, will the parties agree to try to resolve the dispute in mediation prior to litigation?

 

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