Mediation is a process in which people with a conflict work with a neutral adviser to reach an agreement that addresses the needs of all participants. It allows you the opportunity to be heard and understood, and to hear and understand the other party. It is not adversarial; it helps you work with the other party to solve your dispute. You design the agreement so that it specifically addresses your concerns.
One of the main objectives in family mediation is to protect the interests of children. Another priority is to help parents establish and/or maintain consistent involvement in their children's lives. Children are often severely affected by conflict between parents, and the child's stress can lead to incidents of juvenile delinquency and other self-destructive behavior.
Any family issue can be resolved through mediation, including custody, visitation and support. In custody cases, the mediator can explain to you the practical differences between such terms as joint, sole or shared custody. Different visitation arrangements that have proved successful with other parents can be explored. Your mediator will also make available to you the support guidelines used by the judges in your area.
In all court involved custody and visitation cases where both parties live in Virginia, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, located in Manassas, requires the parties to attend a mediation orientation and evaluation. The parties will receive notice of their orientation appointment at the Office of Dispute Resolution. The 45-minute session is designed to pre-screen participants for suitability and educate them about the mediation process. This no-cost evaluation is your opportunity to have your questions about mediation answered by a qualified professional.
There must be a case filed in court in order to obtain mediation services. You may contact the Juvenile Intake Office, Manassas (703) 792-6210 or Woodbridge (703) 792-7350, to learn about filing a case with the court. If you already have a court order and wish to amend the order, you may call the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Clerk's Office, (703) 792-6160 for filing information.
Once the case is determined to be appropriate for mediation and the parties choose to participate in mediation, the parties select a date and time that will work with their schedule. The appropriate information is sent to the selected mediator by the Office of Dispute Resolution and the process begins.
When an agreement is reached through mediation, it is recommended that each party have an attorney review it to ensure that party's legal rights have not been compromised. The parties may agree to have the agreement filed through the Office of Dispute Resolution for direct submission to the court without requiring anyone to appear on the court date. The agreement will be entered as a court order.
If an agreement cannot be reached in the mediation process, the case and parties will proceed through the normal court process. If some of the issues have been resolved through mediation, you can limit the Court hearing to the remaining issues.
Mediation services are offered by attorneys, private individuals and organizations throughout the Northern Virginia area. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, located in Manassas, refers disputants to:
Office of Dispute Resolution
9309 Center Street, Suite 301
Manassas, Virginia 20110