divorce mediation in Indianapolis

Understanding the Role of Mediation in Indiana Divorce Cases

Mediation provides a way for couples to reach an agreement on some, or all, of the issues in their divorce. While Indiana law does not require mediation in divorce cases, circumstances may cause a couple to attend mediation voluntarily, or a judge to order them to attend at least one session, to determine what issues are actually contested and settle those can be settled without court intervention. This blog discusses the role of mediation in Indiana divorce cases and how it can help with both the practical and emotional issues involved in a divorce. 

Mediators are neutral third parties who assist in helping litigants reach an agreement by helping them to identify the issues, reduce misunderstandings, clarify priorities, explore areas of compromise, and find points of agreement as well as legitimate points of disagreement (Rules. Alt. Dis. Res. Rule 2.1). Mediators can be very good at this and help to significantly reduce contention and court involvement in divorce cases. Registered domestic relations mediators must be an attorney in good standing with the Supreme Court of Indiana or have a bachelor's degree or advanced degree from an institution recognized by a U.S. Department of Education approved accreditation organization (Rules. Alt. Dis. Res. Rule 2.5(B)(2)). Mediators assisting in domestic relations cases are also required to have additional training. They must also have taken at least 40 hours of approved domestic relations mediation training in the three years prior to registering or 40 hours of approved domestic relations mediation training at any time and taken at least six (6) hours of approved Continuing Mediation Education in the three years prior to submitting the registration application (Rules. Alt. Dis. Res. Rule 2.5(B)(3)).

Mediation is painless, compared to a contested divorce trial, where evidence is presented and then one must rely upon a judge to make a final decision, which is binding upon both parties. Contrary to trial before a judge, the mediator does not have the authority to make any decisions and must remain neutral throughout the process. Even when a mediator is an attorney, they will not offer legal advice as to what a party should do, whether or not they should accept a settlement offer, or how the court might apply the law and what decision it may reach in a particular case (Rules. Alt. Dis. Res. Rule 2.7). 

Anything said during mediation is confidential and will not be admissible in court, should the parties fail to reach an agreement (Rules. Alt. Dis. Res. Rule 2.11). This means that an offer to give the other party certain property or a specific amount of parenting time cannot be used against you, should an agreement not be reached and court intervention is later required. The reason for this rule is to make sure that parties feel free to negotiate a settlement without worry that what they may have been willing to agree upon before will not be used against them later if a settlement is not reached. 

Mediation sessions are generally held in the mediator or one of the attorney’s offices, with both parties and their attorneys present. The rules of evidence do not apply during mediation (Rules. Alt. Dis. Res. Rule 2.8) and the parties are encouraged to limit discovery (Rules. Alt. Dis. Res. Rule 2.9). Sessions can best be viewed as a cross between a formal and an informal conference where the parties simply sit down and attempt to work out their differences. When a settlement can be reached, the mediator will draft an agreement to file with the court, and have both parties, as well as their attorneys sign the agreement. Agreements on all issues can settle the case, and those reached only on some of the issues can assist the parties and the court in limiting future hearings and a trial, if required, to only those issues which are still contested. 

Mediation can help divorcing couples save money on attorney fees by avoiding trial, or limiting the issues at trial, keep their children out of court and show them that their parents can work together to resolve conflict, and assist in teaching parties how to communicate more effectively. Some Indiana courts even offer a low or no-cost mediation to those who cannot afford to pay a mediator and meet certain income requirements (Office of Court Services). 

This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.


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