What is domestic relations mediation?
Mediation is a process in which parents talk about issues related to parenting plans for their children with the help of a neutral third party. Mediators do not take a side or decide whether a parent is right or wrong. They do not make decisions about your case or give legal advice.
Mediators do help parents listen to each other’s position and keep conversations focused on children. Mediators may also have ideas about how other parents have dealt with situations similar to yours.
Why should I consider mediation?
Research shows that children do better after separation or divorce if their parents are able to cooperate and keep conflict to a minimum.
- Mediation can help parents improve their communication and make agreements that help reduce conflict.
- Mediation also helps keep parents in charge of decisions about their children.
- Mediation in Multnomah County is free and confidential and can help parents avoid the stress and cost of a trial
Who can use mediation services at FCS?
If you have children under 18 and live or have a custody case open in Multnomah County, you can use mediation at any time.
FCS is a safe and respectful space for parents. We honor all aspects of people and families, including race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, age, size and ability.
Is mediation required in Multnomah County?
State law requires all parents to know about the option of mediation. In Multnomah County, parents that have filed a custody or divorce related petition with the court will be required to come to mediation before they go to court.
Exceptions can be made in some circumstances, for example, domestic violence (see “What if there is domestic violence in my situation?," further down this page”).
However, we believe that the sooner parents mediate, the better they do at keeping conflict to a minimum and staying out of court. You can use our mediation service voluntarily, before you file anything with the court or if you do not plan to file anything with the court.
What does mediation cost?
Mediation for parents or parties to cases involving children in Multnomah County is free.
Is mediation confidential?
State law protects the confidentiality of mediation and Family Court Services mediators do not testify in court about what happens in mediation. There are limits to confidentiality where the safety of adults or children is concerned. Staff will talk about mediation privacy and its limitations with you the first time you come in for mediation, and answer any questions you may have.
Who are the mediators?
Family Court Services mediators have masters’ degrees in a behavioral science, such as social work, marriage and family therapy, or psychology. They have additional training in mediation and advanced training in child custody and parenting time mediation.
All of our mediators also have many years of experience working with children and families going through separation and divorce and other difficult family situations.
In addition, all FCS mediators meet Oregon’s state requirements for Court-Connected Domestic Relations Mediators under the Chief Justice Order No. 05-028.
What if there is domestic violence in my situation?
In mediation, it is important that you feel free and safe to talk about your wishes and concerns. When there has been domestic violence between parents, it may be difficult for a parent to feel safe enough to negotiate with the other parent.
If you are afraid for your safety, mediation may not be the right choice for you. In that case, you may ask a judge to waive the requirement for mediation by filing a request for mediation to be waived. A printable form is available online.
Many parents that have experienced domestic violence do still choose to mediate. If you would like to use mediation to try to work out a plan for your children but have some concerns about your safety, please call us and talk with us about how to make mediation a safe process for you. Remember that parents can end mediation at any time if you do not feel safe or comfortable.
What if we have a restraining order or a no contact order between us?
If you have a restraining order related to domestic violence you can mediate if you have already passed the period of time when the respondent can contest the restraining order.
If you have a no-contact order in a criminal case you must get permission from the probation officer or judge that has the authority to allow contact for the purpose of mediation.
In either case, you may use mediation to negotiate custody and parenting time. You may not use it to negotiate the restrictions around contact between you and the other parent.
Does mediation work?
Many of the parents that come to mediation, reach agreement on some or all of the issues between them. Many parents report that mediation gave them a chance to understand the other parent’s position and concerns, even when they did not agree.
Research shows that parents that mediate have less conflict and return to court less in the future, even when the did not reach agreement in mediation.
Do I need a lawyer?
Mediation is not a substitute for legal advice or representation. FCS encourages all parents to get advice from a lawyer if possible. We also recognize that many parents in domestic relations cases are representing themselves because they cannot afford a lawyer or do not choose to retain a lawyer. There are some low cost legal resources available in Multnomah County.
How many sessions will we need?
Some parents only need one session. Some need more. It depends on the number and complexity of the issues the parents want to resolve. FCS will provide mediation appointments for as long as both parents need them and are still using the time to work on resolving custody and parenting time issues.
Can I bring another person to the appointment?
Third parties – friends, family members, new partners – may not participate in mediation unless both parents agree. It is usually not a good idea to bring a new partner to your mediation session. It may make the other parent uncomfortable and set the wrong tone for mediation.
If you need to have someone come with you because of safety concerns or for emotional support while you wait, try to think of someone safe and neutral that will not upset the other parent.
Generally, lawyers do not come to mediation unless both parents want them there and you have discussed this with your mediator ahead of time.
Should I bring my children?
FCS does not include children in mediation and bringing children to the courthouse is usually not necessary. You will need to make other arrangements for your children when you come to mediation.
Court Care provides free childcare in the Courthouse:
- For children ages: 6 weeks to 5 years.
- Hours of operation: 8:30 am until 4:00 pm.
- Available for parents who: have business in the Courthouse, and only for the period of time that they are in the Courthouse conducting their business.
If you have questions about Court Care or want to make arrangements for your child(ren) you may contact 503.988.4334.
Do you provide mediation in languages other than English?
We provide mediation through contracted interpreters in ASL and other languages upon request. There is no additional charge to clients for interpretation services. If you need an interpreter, it is very important that you call and let us know at least two weeks ahead of your appointment.
Is mediation at FCS my only option?
Our mediation services are one option for resolving child custody and parenting time issues. Private mediators are also available. Multnomah County Circuit Court offers a list of private mediators that have appropriate training and meet State requirements for Court-connected mediators. They can be found on the Multnomah County Circuit Court's website.
Private mediators do charge for their services.
How do I schedule a mediation appointment?
- Many parents are scheduled to attend mediation through an Order for Mediation issued automatically by the Court Clerk.
- You can get an Order for Mediation if you have an open case with the court and the other parent is not willing to come to mediation voluntarily.
- You can get a Request for an Order for mediation in room 211 of the Multnomah County Courthouse or you can download this form at the Oregon Courts website.
- Parents can mediate voluntarily at any time.
- To schedule a mediation appointment, you may call our offices at 503-988-3189 during regular business hours.
- One of our staff will have a conversation with you about mediation.
- They will take some basic information about you and the other parent, any safety concerns you may have, and talk about potential appointment times.
What should I expect at the first appointment?
You should consider arriving about ten minutes early for your first appointment so that you have time to complete a basic information form. Expect to spend 1-2 hours at this appointment.
In the first appointment, the mediator will:
- Explain the mediation process to help you decide if you mediation is right for you and whether you want to proceed with the mediation appointment.
- Have you review a Mediation Statement of Understanding to make sure that you and the other parent understand the ground rules for mediation.
If you do not have time to deal with all of the issues that you and the other parent need to discuss, you may schedule additional mediation appointments at no charge.
How do I prepare for my first appointment?
The most important thing for you to do to prepare is to remember that mediation is a negotiation process. Negotiation works best when each person is acting in good faith. It is also helpful for each person to have given some thought to possible areas of compromise.
For your first appointment, you should bring:
- Your ideas and thoughts about the best plan for your child(ren).
- If you are trying to negotiate a change in an existing order, it may be helpful to bring a copy of that order.
Mediation is not a hearing or a trial, so it is not necessary to bring any supporting documents.