Mediation can be a useful tool in a divorce lawyer’s toolkit. However, when there is a current or past history of domestic violence, the use of mediation is extremely controversial. There are varying opinions on the subject. Some experts believe that the victim should be given the power to choose whether or not they wish to begin mediation. Other experts believe that mediation will simply turn into a forum where the aggressor can exert power or influence over the victim.
Some states mandate mediation to make the divorce process easier, quicker, and more efficient. However, this one-size-fits-all approach is troubling in the context of domestic violence. In states where mediation is mandatory, steps can be taken to make sure that the needs of all parties are being taken care of. For example, mediators can screen couples for a history of domestic violence or be highly-trained to detect domestic violence and protect the victim. Mediators can meet with the parties individually before mediation begins. Mediation can also take place with the parties in separate rooms, which is especially helpful in situations where there is an active restraining order. In any situation, more research should be done on the topic to create a uniform approach to dealing with domestic violence in mediation.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please get help.
Marissa McGill, Sweet Family Law