MEDIATION CONSENT & CONFIDENTIALITY RESPONSIBILITIES
I understand mediation is a confidential and voluntary process and no agreement can be forced upon me. The mediator’s role is to manage communication and help the other party/parties and me to work to discover solutions that meet the needs and interests of both/all of us, to the fullest extent possible. The mediator will not make judgments, give legal advice, or present us with solutions to our problems.
MEDIATION WEST’S RESPONSIBILITIES
- Mediation West will keep the content of your session(s) confidential, according to:
- the option selected on the Release of Information Consent Form; and,
- your instruction to the mediator(s) during the negotiation process; and,
- legal obligations, which may require reporting of previously unreported allegations of child abuse or neglect, or threat of harm to self or others.
- Because Mediation West is responsible for scheduling and reporting, process information related to the progress/status of your case may be disclosed†.
- I will not use anything said or obtained in the mediation process in any legal action; sessions are not to be recorded or transcribed, whether in person or via technology. When participating in mediation sessions via telephone, videoconference or other methods, I further agree that:
- I will identify any person who could hear any part of the mediation, whether by speaker, use of an extension phone, presence in the room with a participant, or by any other means.
- The mediator or other parties to the mediation may object to a non-party listening in. If there is an objection, I understand I may either proceed without the non-party or terminate the mediation; I may not mediate with the non-party listening over the objection of the mediator or other parties to the mediation.
- I understand allowing a non-party to listen in or allowing a recording to be made may result in:
- The ability of the other party to move to void the negotiated agreement; and
- A claim for you to pay the other party’s share of the cost of the mediation.
- I will abide by the law that prevents me from involving the staff, mediators, or records of Mediation West in any court proceedings which might arise in the future in connection with this dispute‡.
- I will inform my mediator(s) if I wish to seek legal advice before signing any agreement, as I understand mediated agreements may be enforceable as legal obligations‡.
- I will take responsibility for carrying out any agreement
- I make in the mediation process.
† I will notify Mediation West immediately if I feel that my process information needs to be kept confidential due to safety concerns.
‡ I understand that executed agreements may be admissible in a legal proceeding and that mediator(s) may be asked to corroborate the content/intent of such an agreement; however, no records, or content or interpretations of conversations during the mediation process, may be sought.
RELEASE OF INFORMATION
FOR ALL CASES – YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT:
- Your mediator(s) may consult on your case with Supervisors; and, Mediation West Supervisors may consult on your case with the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR), the supervising entity for Nebraska’s Mediation Centers; all are also bound to the same standards of confidentiality and privilege.
- Mediation West may share limited information about your case with funding or referring agencies (such as DHHS, CAPWN, Probation, et cetera).
- Mediation West will submit a Mediation Status Report (MSR) to the court and your attorney for all court- related cases. If you do not provide attorney information and there is an attorney of record with the Court, one will be sent to the attorney of record.
MEDIATION FEES FOR PARENTING PLAN CASES
- Mediation includes screening, individual, caucus, or joint session time; these include sessions in person or via phone or other technology such as videoconference or email.
- Case Management includes time dedicated to pre- and post-session work, communication with clients, attorneys, and the Court; agreement writing and revision.
- FEES, ADVANCED PAYMENTS AND REFUNDS:
- Parenting Plans are bundled to include all services to simplify billing; this includes all case management, your individual session and first join session for creating or modifying a parenting plan for your child(ren).
- Fees may be reduced according to a sliding scale based on information supplied in the Application for Reduced Fees.¹ Each parent may apply for reduced fees whether the other parent does or not. Each parent is responsible for his/her own fees. If you choose not to apply for or are not approved for reduced fees, the cost of your parenting plan bundle is $399 per parent. This includes:
- A Case Opening Fee of $39 (required to process your paperwork, including your Application for Reduced Fees) which is non-refundable;
- Individual Session (IPS) Fee of $100 which is refundable until your IPS is scheduled;
- Mediation Fee of $300 which is refundable until your session is scheduled.
- Services NOT included in bundle pricing include:
- Child Centered Mediation completed outside of the university study;
- Property settlements or financial agreements related to the divorce/separation;
- Additional parenting plan sessions;
- I understand fees are due before sessions can be scheduled. Mediation West will not schedule IPS or regular mediation sessions or release negotiated agreements or Mediation Status Reports (for cases not court ordered) and will not open a new case for you if have an unpaid balance.
- Appointment cancellations with less than 24 hours’ notice and no-call/no-show appointments shall constitute forfeiture of the bundle deposit made and may require an additional deposit before the session is rescheduled.
- Payments qualifying for refund will be made to the person paying the fee, processed by check through our accountant as the last step in your case, and will not include any processing fees collected. The refund level you qualify for can be shared with you prior to your decision on whether to schedule an IPS or basic mediation session.
¹ Client/grant funds may be categorized as session, casework and/or travel expenses for grant billing purposes, but your portion will not exceed the bundle price.
² Unless funded by the Access and Visitation Grant.
³ As defined in the “Services” section above.
Child-centered mediation seeks to find ways to include the voices of children as parties in the process of developing a parenting plan. The decision-making authority and responsibility of any plan remains solely with the parents. Children will not be asked to make decisions. The intent of any individual or joint mediation session involving minor children is to provide an opportunity for a child’s voice to be heard by the family in a safe environment that facilitates familial communication.
Mediators trained in this process (Child Consultants) assess the appropriateness and potential value of involving minor children in the mediation process. When child(ren) are invited to attend a meeting with a Child Consultant:
- The Child Consultant will determine the best stage of the process for meeting with child(ren).
- Child(ren) only meet with the Child Consultant if they agree to do so.
- Once brought into the process, child(ren) may request to talk to/meet with their Child Consultant.
- Child Consultants take every precaution to ensure that children’s emotional safety and stability will not be compromised during the mediation process. For this reason, child(ren)’s meetings are confidential.
- Confidentiality will be explained to each child as their “private” time but not “secret” time.
- The child may say anything about his/her time with the Child Consultant to anyone that s/he would like.
- The child may ask to attend a meeting with his/her parent(s) and the Child Consultant to directly share items, or s/he may ask the Child Consultant to relay information to the parent(s). The Child Consultant will ensure that s/he confirms with the child the approved issues to share prior to discussing with the parent(s).
- The child may choose to remain private and not share anything at all about his/her time with the Child Consultant. Mediation West will adhere to the child’s wishes regarding items that will not be shared with others during the mediation process, including parent(s).The only exceptions will be if a child makes a disclosure of unreported abuse or neglect, or that s/he is at risk or is aware that another person is at risk.
- Parents may also wish to hold a session with their child(ren) after establishing a parenting plan so they can share that plan with their child(ren) in the presence of a mediator.
Child(ren) involved in child-centered mediation typically have two one-hour private sessions; these sessions are for the child(ren) and the Child Consultant only and may not be attended by anyone else, including a parent or attorney. These sessions must be in person at the mediation center or a location approved by the Child Consultant and cannot be done via technology, such as telephone or video conference. Child(ren) may also have a joint session with parent(s), may ask for information relayed to parent(s), or the Child Consultant will meet with the parents to share if their observations show typical behavior and maturity for the child(ren)’s age(s) or if there are potential areas for concern.
Parents giving consent for their child(ren) to participate in the mediation process should be committed to allowing their child(ren) to continue as long as the child(ren) see value in it. Prematurely severing their participation may have negative consequences for the child(ren). Parents are encouraged to seek legal advice before signing any consent if they have any questions.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Mediation West is here to provide a service. If individuals choose any of the following:
- Not to open a case with our office
- Not to participate in an invitation from another party to mediate
- Or have their case closed
They retain their right to resolve their issues through use of a private mediator, the self-help section on the Nebraska Supreme Court Website, through a settlement conference between their attorneys, or any other means approved by the Court.
If they choose our service, we have certain expectations about how each case will move forward and how individuals will interact with our staff and mediators. Additionally, we will provide a mediation status report, as required by the court, if individuals have an open case in the judicial system or to the entity that referred to mediation (such as an employer for workplace mediation). Judges and referral sources will use the Mediation Status Report (MSR) to try and determine if parties have meaningfully mediated, or in other words, to answer the question, “Did the case progress?”
Cases can fail to progress for any combination of the following:
Lack of case progression (unable to get required paperwork or fees from all participants)
- To keep a case progressing individuals must meet all the deadlines for paperwork and payments. Judges are more likely to order a case to mediation if a case has failed to progress, so individuals may want to consider moving forward their Individual Private Session, even if the other party is not responding or choose to wait to see if the Judge does in fact issue that order.
Lack of Mediation progression (participants are unable to agree on specifics of the plan)
Individuals can keep their mediation progressing by:
- Respectfully listening to the other person’s proposal.
- Putting forth their own realistic proposals.
- Meaningfully mediated proposals are not about punishing the other person for past choices that may have caused harm but should be focused on what is needed to be able to move forward.
- It’s okay not to come to an agreement, but individuals should expect to receive and share proposals directly with the other party or through their mediator. If an agreement is not reached, or only a partial agreement is reached, it is still possible for the Judge to order the case back to mediation, so truly meaningfully mediated cases are best for individuals. Referral sources outside of the courts may take additional action if cases return unresolved or partially resolved.
Behavior (uncooperative participants)
Individuals can keep their mediation progressing by:
- Being polite and cooperative. It is okay to feel hurt or angry, but it is not okay to attack the other participant or to treat Mediation West staff and mediators poorly.
- Mediation West may terminate cases with uncooperative participants.
- Cases closed due to inappropriate behavior are not eligible for refund of any unused portion of fees. We may also refuse service in future cases unless we see a positive shift in the individual’s approach.
- If a case is ordered back to mediation and Mediation West determines a party is still uncooperative, the participants will need to utilize the services of a private mediator. Note that some private mediators may not accept cases on a sliding fee scale.