The Mediation program provides an informal, non-adversarial process by a credentialed, impartial mediator to aid parents with minor children who are divorced or are divorcing or unmarried parents who cannot resolve their parenting issues. The mediation process aims to minimize the harmful affects of family discord on children and to resolve disputes through voluntary mutual agreement. The Mediation Program operates in Mercer County and is funded by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia using TANF dollars.
A Family's Story:
Mr. and Mrs. Jones arrive at the office for their mediation session. They immediately scope out where they can sit so that they will not have to maintain close proximity or eye contact with one another. After introductions, they are asked if they have an understanding of why they are here. They respond that no one has explained anything about this process to them.
A brief history of how the parenting education and mediation services became a requirement in the WV Family Court System is provided. Also, that the Court, recognizing that parents are the "experts' when it comes to determining what is best for their children, encourages this opportunity for the parents to develop a parenting plan to benefit the children as well as the parents. The parents now physically appear to relax and want to get started. Mr. Jones is agreeable to mom being the custodial parent, but wants to make sure his soon-to-be-ex-spouse understands that he wants his children at least three overnights each week. Both are attempting to agree on some form of visitation, not really wanting to give each other what they want. The mediator keeps the two focused on the best interest of the child. Mrs. Jones was rather resistant to giving Mr. Jones any say or control of his child, because he did not have a history of "being there." Both are encouraged to look past their own emotional investments and to focus on their children and what they may need. The negotiation begins and the final result is usually a compromise with a parenting plan emerging that both parents can accept. The two express relief that this is resolved and they can now move forward with their lives.
To say that these sessions are easy, or friendly, would be untrue, for they are, for the most part, difficult, often tedious negotiations that are completely dependent on the parents' willingness to compromise for the sake of their children. It is with a certain pride that out of the 14 completed mediations conducted, only two failed to come to some agreement regarding their parenting plan.