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Iowa Mediation Changes 2021

Updated on
April 7, 2021
Article written by
Eugene Nassif

Mediation has emerged as an effective way for disputing parties to come to a resolution without incurring high costs associated with going to court. It can be effective to resolve issues in family law disputes including divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support and division of assets and liabilities.

Mediation is a process which allows opposing parties who disagree on issues meet and negotiate in a neutral setting in order to come to a resolution. A trained, professional mediator who has often worked hundreds of similar cases sits in on discussions and helps parties come to mutually agreed, fair agreements. Even if a final agreement cannot be achieved, mediation will help parties understand each other’s position and needs, leading to eventual compromise.  

In this article, we will discuss the meaning of mediation and recent changes to mediation laws in Iowa as of 2021. We cover the following questions:  

  • Is mediation required in Iowa family law cases?
  • How do I find a mediator and what is their role?
  • How does divorce mediation work in Iowa?
  • How long does mediation last?
  • What if mediation fails?

Is mediation required in Iowa family law cases?

While it isn’t explicitly required by law, Iowa Code Section 598.7 states that “the district court may, on its own motion or on the motion of any party, order the parties to participate in mediation in any dissolution of marriage action or other domestic relations action.” In other words, the court could require parties to mediate prior to trial if the judge finds it beneficial or it is requested by a party to the suit. While courts haven’t historically required mediation, it is gaining popularity and may likely be required in your case.  

There are some instances where mediation likely won’t happen. In situations where there is a history of abuse or domestic violence, mediation is typically improper. Additionally, in situations where parties live far apart or one party is incarcerated, mediation is unlikely to happen.

How do I find a mediator and what is their role?

Most of the time, either your attorney or opposing counsel will have mediators that they often work with. However, should this not be the case, many family law firms throughout Iowa have an attorney on their staff that is a trained mediator.

The mediator is a neutral third party. In other words, they do not represent either party nor can they give legal advice to either party. Most of the time, the cost of the mediator is split between both parties to prevent even perceived bias. As a neutral party, they will attempt to take the positions of both parties and come to a consensus agreeable by both parties.  

How does divorce mediation work in Iowa?

In mediation for divorces in Iowa, spouses meet with a mediator often at a neutral location, typically a law firm. The mediator will listen to both sides and attempt to guide the parties to mutually acceptable resolutions. It’s important to note here that the mediator’s job isn’t necessarily to agree with you. Their job is to identify commonalities between parties and facilitate compromise.  

How long does mediation last?

It is difficult to estimate how long a mediation takes. If both parties are open to compromise, the session may take an hour. If there are more issues to dispute and don’t want to compromise, a mediation could take multiple full day sessions. Communication between parties about the terms of the mediation will help give you an expectation for how long the mediation will last.  

What if mediation fails?

Agreeing to mediated and going through a mediation does not guaranty a resolution. Parties who agree to participate in a mediation don’t give up their right to go to court if they cannot agree to the terms in your family law dispute.  

Iowa Mediation Changes 2021
Author

Eugene Nassif

Eugene Nassif is an associate attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. His primary focus is in business and civil litigation matters.

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