Washtenaw County Bar Association
Member Services
Board of Directors
Section Chairs
Committee Chairs
Member Directory
Lawyer Referral Service
Public Resources
Public Resources

Domestic Relations Mediation

Frequently Asked Questions


What is Domestic Relations Mediation? 

In mediation, parties work with a neutral facilitator who directs and moderates their discussion of the issues in their divorce, to help them reach agreement.  The issues may include property settlement, parenting and support of children, spousal support, as well as other matters.  Mediation often results in settlement.

Why should I participate?

More than 90% of all cases reach a settlement without a trial.  Mediation promotes settlement at an earlier stage in the process, often resulting in savings of time as well as legal expenses.  Mediation promotes cooperative parenting.

Compared to other kinds of dispute resolution, such as trials and court hearings, people who participate in mediation are usually more satisfied with the results they obtain.

Do I have to participate in Mediation?

The Court has the power to order you to participate in mediation, whether or not you agree.  

A divorce case assigned to Judge Francis or Judge O'Brien is automatically ordered to mediation.  The party filing the complaint is required to serve the order for mediation with the complaint. 

Some cases are not appropriate for mediation.   For example:    

  • Are you subject to a personal protection order?
  • Are you involved in a child abuse and neglect proceeding?
  • Are you a victim of domestic abuse?
  • Are you unable to negotiate for yourself?
  • Will your health or safety be endangered by mediation?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your case may not be appropriate for mediation.

What if I am a victim of Domestic Violence?

A determination will be made as to whether mediation is appropriate.  For additional information about domestic abuse, please contact SafeHouse Center at 734-995-5444, or visit the website at: http://www.safehousecenter.org/

When should mediation take place?

Mediation can begin whenever the parties are ready.  Many families find that it makes sense to complete mediation and reach agreement before they file a lawsuit.

Are there rules governing mediation?

When mediation is ordered by the court, it is governed by Michigan Court Rule 3.216, which can be found at http://coa.courts.mi.gov/rules.

By mutual agreement of the parties and the mediator, the mediator may give the parties a written recommendation for settlement of any issues that remain unresolved at the conclusion of mediation.  This process is called "Evaluative Mediation and is governed by MCR 3.216(I). 

Does my lawyer participate in mediation?

Your ability to achieve a settlement in mediation will be enhanced if you obtain legal advice about your rights and responsibilities from your attorney before you begin to mediate.  You may choose to have your lawyer participate in the mediation sessions, or you may choose to mediate without your lawyer present, and to confer with him or her between sessions.

Do I need a mediator and a lawyer?  Why can't my mediator take care of everything?

Both parties need independent legal advice.  Even if the mediator is a lawyer, ethics require that the mediator maintain neutrality and not give legal advice.

How do I find a Mediator?

The Washtenaw County Trial Court maintains an Approved Domestic Mediator List.   Approved Mediators have completed training programs and have met other requirements established by the Supreme Court.  In choosing a mediator, you may use this list, or you may choose a mediator who is not on the list.  However, if the court orders you to mediate and you are unable to agree on a mediator, the court will assign a mediator.

How much does mediation cost? Who pays for it? What if I can't afford it?

Mediators usually charge on an hourly basis. The parties generally share the cost.  The Friend of the Court (http://washtenawtrialcourt.org/friend_of_court) offers mediation for issues of custody and parenting time with no fee.

Sliding scale and reduced fee arrangements can be made with private mediators, as well as the Dispute Resolution Center in Ann Arbor. Visit the website for more information: www.thedisputeresolutioncenter.org. Information is also available from Legal Services of South Central Michigan. Visit the website for more information: www.lsscm.org.

How does the court assign a mediator?

The Alternative Dispute Resolution Clerk maintains a random order list of Approved Mediators.  If the court orders mediation and you cannot agree on a mediator, you will be assigned the first available mediator from the list. 

How do I contact the Alternative Dispute Resolution Clerk?

Alternative Dispute Resolution Clerk

Washtenaw County Courthouse

101 E. Huron Street, P.O. Box 8645

Ann Arbor, Michigan 48107

(734) 222 -3383

How long does Mediation take?

In most domestic relations cases, mediation takes place in several sessions over a period of weeks.  The number of sessions needed depends on the number and complexity of issues.

If I am getting a divorce and I participate in mediation, will it delay my divorce?

No.  Even if your family has minor children, participation in mediation will not delay your divorce.

What if mediation fails?  Will anyone tell the judge what happened?

If you are ordered to mediate by the judge, and you do not reach an agreement, the mediator will tell the judge only that mediation was unsuccessful.  The mediator is not permitted to provide the judge with any other information.

Are there any web resources I should know about? 

Additional information about mediation is available at http://www.courts.michigan.gov/scao/dispute/odr.htm  

Some mediators recommend these web-based tools:  ourfamilywizard.com and uptoparents.org.