Important Update – Mediation Now Required for Family Law Cases in Iowa
The Iowa Supreme Court issued an administrative order on July 9, 2020, which required all judicial districts in Iowa to implement mandatory mediation in all family law cases no later than March 1, 2021. The purpose of this order is to require parties to participate in mediation in an attempt to resolve disputed issues prior to trial.
The 4th Judicial District of Iowa is comprised of the following nine counties in southwest Iowa: Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby. Please be advised that the 4th Judicial District of Iowa has now established its mandatory mediation procedures. The crucial date when determining the proper timeline for any applicable mandatory mediation requirements is March 1, 2021. Accordingly, now parties in every family law case filed with courts in the 4th Judicial District of Iowa on or after March 1, 2021, must participate in mediation within 120 days after service of the lawsuit. Importantly, parties will not be allowed to schedule a trial date until completing mediation. However, this mediation requirement does not apply to any cases initiated by Child Support Recovery Unit or if both parties are not represented by counsel.
For those pending family law cases filed prior to March 1, 2021, parties must participate in mediation no later than April 30, 2021, in an attempt to resolve any outstanding disputed issues. Notably, the parties are not required to participate in mediation if the case is scheduled for trial on or before May 31, 2021. If the trial date is continued for any reason, the parties will be required to attempt mediation prior to obtaining a new trial date.
If you or your spouse have recently filed for divorce, or are contemplating a divorce, please contact Simpson Legal Group, LLC, at (712) 256-9899 or visit our firm website at www.simpsonlegalgroup.com to learn more about mandatory mediation in family law cases.
We are proud to announce we have 3 certified mediators at Simpson Legal Group, LLC.
Shannon Simpson received her certificate for Basic Mediation and Family Mediation from Nebraska Mediation Association.
Ryan Muldoon and Jailey Simpson received their certificate for Comprehensive Divorce & Family Mediation from Crilley Mediation Services.
If you are interested in learning more about the virtual mediation process, and how it can assist in moving your litigation forward in these unprecedented times when court access is limited, please feel free to contact us at Simpson Legal Group, LLC, with any questions you may have. We can be reached at (712) 256-9899.
What is Virtual Mediation?
Mediation is a tool used by two or more people who present their unique set of legal circumstances to a neutral third party known as mediator. The mediator’s job is to attempt to contain emotions and reduce conflict to assist the partys in reaching a mutually amicable resolution to their dispute. The trained mediator can help facilitate communication and problem solving techniques that can form the basis for a final resolution.
During these unprecedented times, however, face-to- face interaction may not be practical. But moving your case forward continues to be possible with remote virtual mediation. Virtual mediation allows parties to work on settlement of their dispute, in an online environment, without the need for in-person meetings. The mediation is conducted by means of videoconferencing and is both confidential and private. Your mediator will assist you through the entire process and help you to work towards an amicable resolution.
Why Mediation Instead of Litigation?
Legal disputes involving the court system can potentially lead to financial ruin for individuals or businesses. Lawsuits are time-consuming endeavors that can also take a toll on a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution where a trained third-party neutral, more commonly referred to as a mediator, helps guide the parties to a resolution.
Here are five reasons why choosing mediation over litigation could be beneficial:
- Control. The parties, not the court, control the process and the outcome in mediation. This concept of control actually begins prior to mediation because the parties typically select the mediator. During mediation, the parties determine the discussion and whether or not there is a resolution. A judge or jury decides the fate of the parties should a lawsuit proceed to trial.
- Economical. A mediation can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day. Conversely, lawsuits can take one to two years before a trial. If one party decides to appeal then the lawsuit could span several years. Therefore, mediation is much more cost-effective than litigation.
- Neutral. The cornerstone of mediation is neutrality. Mediators remain neutral during the entire mediation process and have no vested interest in the outcome of the dispute. Although the mediator may creatively facilitate negotiations, the mediator does not take sides with one party or the other.
- Voluntary. The parties voluntarily make a decision to try mediation. During a mediation, the parties make good faith attempts to resolve the dispute. However, one party cannot be forced to enter into an agreement with another party if they do not agree with all of the proposed terms.
- Time. As previously indicated, a lawsuit may last years prior to an outcome. Mediation is an opportunity to quickly and efficiently resolve a pending legal dispute in a matter of hours.
Virtual Mediation: Things to (do) for a successful virtual mediation.
Do choose a mediator with online mediation training.
In addition to Comprehensive Divorce and Family Mediation Training, our mediators at Simpson Legal Group, LLC, have also completed Online Zoom Mediation Training. This additional training ensures that your virtual mediation is conducted by a mediator that is experienced and comfortable with the platform in which he/she will conduct your virtual mediation.
Do familiarize yourself with the virtual platform prior to your mediation.
Our mediators conduct their mediation sessions through Zoom. It is beneficial for the mediation participants to download Zoom on their device and create an account prior to the scheduled mediation session. If participants are comfortable with the basic features of Zoom, i.e., muting/unmuting themselves, they will be able to focus closely on the issues being mediated rather than tending to technical difficulties.
Do check your internet connection.
Similar to familiarizing yourself with the virtual platform, participants should check the speed of their internet connection to avoid connectivity issues during your online mediation session. This can be done by using a “speed test” website or simply trying out a Zoom meeting with a family member or friend. If you find that you do not have sufficient bandwidth, Zoom has a call-in feature. This feature allows you to call from a cell phone or land line instead of using the internet audio option.
Do maintain confidentiality.
Our mediators have resolved issues with confidentiality by choosing a virtual platform with high security features. The mediator has the ability to lock the videoconference, thereby confirming that no one can enter the online mediation session without first being accepted into the videoconference by the mediator.
Additionally, our mediators will use a “breakout room” function. This function allows the participants to be in separate virtual rooms. Your mediator will make an agreement with you at the outset of the mediation regarding how you wish your mediator to enter your breakout room. For example, a mediator will wait to be called back into your breakout room rather than arriving unannounced. This ensures that any privileged or confidential conversations are not overheard by the mediator or any other participants.