Mediation can occur even when one or both participants are victims of domestic violence at the hands of the other participant, provided both parties can participate fully and safely.
Family law mediations must comply with Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure 67(B) and 68(B). These Rules state that where there is an Order of Protection involving the parties, or a Court issues finding of facts that would support the entry of such an Order, the Court may only refer the parties to mediation if there are “are policies and procedures in place that protect the victim from harm, harassment, or intimidation.” Id. Parties must be notified of their right to request that a mediation requirement be waived, or request reasonable procedures to protect a domestic violence victim. Id. Also, a mediator may reject or terminate a mediation if he/she deems it appropriate, based on domestic violence. Id.
The mediator can take certain precautions to ensure the comfort and safety of a domestic violence victim. The Family Violence Department of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges prepared an article entitled: “Mediating When Domestic Violence/Control Exists,” in which it offered the following suggestions for mediating where there is domestic violence:
- Ask the victim what precautions he/she would like in place.
- Allow the victim to bring someone with him/her, so she/he feels more comfortable, or allow him/her to use the phone as he/she wishes to contact such individuals.
- Have separate waiting areas.
- Mediate while keeping the parties separated (in different rooms, telephonically or through video conferencing), and otherwise orchestrate the mediation so the participants do not see each other.
- Do not leave the parties alone.
- Remind the participants that they can end the mediation session or process at any time.
- Check in with the abused party, and continually reevaluate safety.
- Terminate mediation if necessary.
- Craft clear agreements to reduce the opportunity for the abuser to take advantage of ambiguities.
- Make sure the victim has a place to review paperwork, especially if the participants are still living together.
- Offer to help to find safe arrangements for the victim.
- Escort the victim to his/her car.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, and you would still like to mediate your matter, inform your mediator, so he/she can make the experience as positive and productive as possible.
Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.
Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC
8160 E. Butherus Dr., Suite #7
Scottsdale, AZ 85260