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Parenting Class and Court Ordered Mediation

Legal matters that involve children can be especially complicated to navigate. The system is designed to help parents try to find a resolution outside of the Court making an order. A part of that design is that parents are almost always required to attend a parenting class and are absolutely required to attend a mediation session, if disputes exist.

In initial paternity actions and actions for divorce, Wisconsin law states that Court may require the parents to attend a parenting class that addresses such issues as child development, family dynamics, how parental separation affects a child’s development, and what parents can do to make raising a child in a separated situation less stressful for the child. While the says that the Court “may” require this class, the practical application is that most Judges do require the parents to complete this class before granting a divorce or final paternity judgment.

The class cannot be longer than 4 hours and is typically held several times a month, depending on the county. Each parent is responsible for the cost to attend this class. The class typically ranges in cost from $30.00 to $50.00. If a parent fails to attend the course, that parent could be found in contempt of court, if that parent is the one who brought a custody/placement action, the Court could refuse to hear their motion and/or the parent that doesn’t attend may be required to pay the full deposit for the Guardian ad Litem, if necessary.

While the requirement to the parenting class is at the Court’s discretion, the requirement that parents attend a mediation session is not up for debate. Wisconsin law requires that the Courts refer parents who are disagreeing on the best custody and placement options for their children to at least one mediation session.

What is mediation? Mediation is a cooperative process involving the parties and a mediator, the purpose of which is to help the parties, by applying communication and dispute resolution skills, define and resolve their own disagreements, with the best interest of the child as the paramount consideration. Wis. Stat. 767.405(1)(a).

Every county in Wisconsin is required to have mediation available to parents.

It should be noted that if the Court determines that there had been abuse between the parents or that mediation would cause undue hardship or threaten the safety of a party, the Court can waive the requirement to attend mediation.

Parties can also independently request that the Court refer them to mediation if they are trying to solve a dispute outside filing a motion.

Wisconsin law states that mediation is only to discuss matters of custody and placement and actually prohibits parties from talking about property division, maintenance, or child support may be considered during the mediation unless one of those issues is related to a custody or placement issue and both parties agree in writing to discuss the issues.

If the parents are able to come to an agreement during mediation, the mediator will write up the agreement and circulate for signature and approval by the Court. If there are attorneys involved, the attorneys and Guardian ad Litem but also certify that they have reviewed the agreement and approve before a Court will approve. A Court does have discretion to reject an agreement if it believes the agreement is not in the best interest of the child.

If the parents are not able to come to an agreement in mediation, the mediator will notify the Court and the Court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem for the child.

If you find yourself being referred to mediation and have questions about the process, please reach out our experienced family law attorneys at (920) 459-8490.