Iowa Family Mediation Explained: Divorce and Child Custody Mediation

Iowa Family Mediation Explained: Divorce and Child Custody Mediation

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 22, 2019

In this article, we explain Iowa family mediation and child custody mediation. We address the following:

  • What is family mediation?
  • Is when is family mediation required by Iowa family law courts?
  • How long does family mediation last in Iowa?
  • What are the benefits of family mediation?
  • Do I need an attorney for family mediation?
  • What if family mediation fails?

What is family mediation?

Mediation allows opposing parties to meet and negotiate in a neutral setting. A trained mediator often sits in to ensure discussions are fair and productive. Mediation is private, confidential, and incredibly effective.  Mediation can be used to resolve issues surrounding a divorce such as child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and division of assets and liabilities.  

When given the opportunity to negotiate, parties often come to an agreement on conditions and terms, especially in relation to child custody. Even if a final agreement can’t be reached, mediation helps participants express their wishes in a safe space while being encouraged to actively listen to the opposing party, neither of which are likely outside mediation.

Is mediation required by Iowa family law courts?

In Iowa, the court can order mediation sessions before a child custody case is awarded a trial. Mediation sessions are often required to reduce the strain of trials on the court system. Mediation also encourages parents to act and negotiate in the best interest of their child, who they know best.

However, mediation is sometimes not appropriate. If there is a history of domestic violence, the court will rarely require mediation. Other situations where mediation may not be required is if a party lives out of state or is incarcerated.

How long does family mediation last?

Mediation sessions are typically short, with most lasting between one and two hours. Longer mediation sessions can be held if requested (e.g. one party lives out of state). The number of sessions needed to come to an agreement varies. While some parties may be able to agree on terms in one session, others may need to come together several times before progress is made.

What are the benefits of family mediation?

Mediation provides several benefits. When parents come together and decide on their own custody arrangements, they’re more likely to follow through and honor them. Mediation is often faster and less costly than a trial and protects the child from the stress and confusion a custody trial may bring, especially if they are younger.

Do I need an attorney for family mediation?

An attorney isn’t typically required for a mediation session but may be beneficial. An attorney can help parents prepare for the mediation process and answer any questions they may have beforehand. They can also participate in the mediation session, either in person or over the phone. Once both parties have come to an agreement, an attorney can help prepare the agreement of terms, though a mediator may also be able to assist with this step.

What if family mediation fails?

Even with the best of intentions, not all mediation sessions end with an agreement. Disputing parents who participate in mediation do not give up their right to a court trial if they can’t agree on custody terms. Heading to court over a custody dispute may prolong the outcome and prove to be more expensive compared to mediation. 

However, it is sometimes the better option for all involved parties, including the child, if an agreement cannot be reached over the course of multiple mediation sessions.

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What if family mediation fails?

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