Court must mediate in some cases

New Legislature-mandated mediation guidelines for court cases involving children will take effect next month, and one official said it will benefit all parties that are involved.

The 2nd Judicial District, which includes Webster County, will adopt new rules that make meditation a requirement for civil cases that involve minor children.

Scott Hand, 2nd Judicial District court administrator, said the guidelines, which are mandated by the Iowa Legislature, have been tested in other counties.

“We’ve been doing a pilot in Story and Boone counties and we’re trying to expand into others,” he said. “If you have a dissolution of marriage or a domestic relations case involving children, you’ll be ordered to go through mediation to try and mediate the issues.”

Previously, mediation didn’t happen unless the parties involved in the case did it on their own.

“There will be a mediator roster provided to the parties and they will choose their own,” Hand said. “The mediator will then file a report saying whether it’s been successful or not.”

In the past, Hand said mediation has proved to be beneficial.

“It’s very successful where the parties are a part of the resolution of their case,” he said. “Statistically, it’s been proven that the parties in these cases are happier that they’re a part of the outcome as opposed to going to trial.”

Under the previous system, a case would be sent to District Court Administration 90 days after being filed. A trial date would then be set and the case would move forward.

Hand said the mediation requirement will make the process easier for everyone.

“They’ll get a say in how they want it resolved,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to work with a neutral party. They’ll work through the issues that may remain.”

Eventually, Hand said every district court will adopt the mediation guidelines.

“There’s a need for it, more than anything,” he said. “It gives you a better outcome and that’s what we’re trying to do for the parties involved.”

Though mediation isn’t always successful, feedback from those who have gone through mediation has been positive.

“It won’t work in every instance, and the court will still try cases,” Hand said, “but it still gives the chance to meet early on and reconcile their differences.”