The Sixth Judicial District established its mandatory Family Law Mediation Program in 1996. Its primary objectives are to:
Encourage parties to make their own decisions on issues that will affect their lives and those of their children.
Increase parties’ satisfaction and compliance with final decrees.
Reduce the burden on the Court of the family law caseload.
Save litigants and the judicial branch time and money.
Encourage parties to develop the working relationship they will need to enable them to parent their children effectively after the final decree.
Reduce the trauma endured by children affected by family law cases.
In the Sixth Judicial District, the court automatically orders parties to participate in mediation upon the following circumstances:
Upon the filling of all dissolution of marriage cases, all modifications of custody or visitation, and all equity cases involving child custody or visitation.
Upon the filling of any request for temporary custody, visitation or spousal support. The court will require that no affidavits in support of or in resistance to any application for temporary custody or visitation be filed until mediation has been completed
Upon the court's own motion if the judge determines that the parties would benefit from mediation.
The court will generally waive the mediation requirement if both parties certify they have reached a settlement of all issues in the case within 120 days of when the case was filed. Mediation can also be waived for good cause, such as a history of physical or emotional abuse. If a party believes good cause exists for a waiver of mediation, it is the party’s responsibility to seek the waiver from the court. Mediators also screen for domestic abuse and other issues which may make a case inappropriate for mediation. If a mediator believes a case is inappropriate for mediation, the mediator may so inform the court.
When the court orders mediation, it also sets out other requirements that parties must complete in order for their case to be scheduled for trial. Parties are required to:
- Complete a mediation education class within 45 days of when the case is filed. This class is offered in conjunction with the Children in the Middle Class (PDF) or can be taken online here.
- Attend the Children in the Middle Class if children are involved in the case. Online courses are not permitted. Parties must attend the class in person within 45 days of the filing of the case.
- Complete mediation within 120 days of when the case is filed. Parties are encouraged to select their own mediators. A roster of mediators is available online. The court appoints a default mediator for those parties who are unable to agree on a mediator.
- Share required financial information with the other party and file the Pretrial Report and Stipulation of Assets and Liabilities Report (PDF) with the court within 120 days of the filing of the case.
- Participate in a trial setting conference once all of the above requirements are met. At the trial setting conference, the court will schedule a trial date.
In the Sixth District, agreements reached at mediation are not signed at the mediation session unless both parties have attorneys present at the mediation session. Generally, proposed agreements reached at mediation are submitted to the parties’ attorneys afterward for review. Any final agreement must be signed by both parties and then submitted in the proper form to the court for approval. The court has the authority to accept, reject, or modify the mediated agreement.
If mediation does not resolve the case, the court will schedule a pretrial conference thirty days before the trial date to review the issues in dispute and ensure the parties are ready for trial.
Parties with questions about the family law mediation program may visit the website for Mediation Services of Eastern Iowa (external link) or call 319-248-1940.