Virginia’s courts, at all levels, have packed calendars. They encourage disputing parties to avail themselves of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which can mean mediation for all types of legal snags, including child support and child custody. Right at Virginia’s mediation website it says, and we quote, “In Virginia the mediation process is voluntary and confidential.” So, does that mean you can just blow off a request to mediate your child custody conflict?

Juvenile and Domestic Relations (J&DR) Court

Your divorce was handled in a different Virginia court from your child custody and support case. Hey, do not listen to us; take it from the Commonwealth itself, if you doubt us:

“The circuit court also handles family matters, including divorce. In addition, the circuit court hears cases appealed from the general district court and from the juvenile and domestic relations district court.”

Every Virginia city and county has its own circuit court, which heard your divorce case and dispensed a divorce decree. Details like child support and custody must then go to the J&DR court to be adjudicated, which is where mediation can enter the picture.

Both circuit courts and J&DR courts are routinely up to their dockets in pending cases, so the court system is grateful to Virginia applicants who agree to take their disputes to mediation instead of straining the overworked courts.

Mediation for Child Custody

Mediation is the relief valve, if you will, for the court system. While you consider your child custody case to be the very marrow of your existence (and, to be fair, it is, given that it’s about your kids), the courts are struggling to handle felonies, lawsuits, extraditions and search warrant applications at an astounding rate. If you are able to mediate, rather than try, your case, so much the better (and faster) for you.

A trained mediator hears both sides of your dispute and, despite what you may think, does not compel either side to “take the offer,” or “give up.” The mediator is attempting to get you and your ex-wife to find a reasonable middle ground to whatever dispute you have.

Most divorced couples struggle to communicate without the emotional baggage of the divorce intruding into the conversation with all the finesse of a tuna sandwich from a vending machine. The mediator is there to sooth the troubled waters, offer a little toothpaste to rid you of that tuna breath, and get you on track to solving your current issues, not re-litigate the past ones.

Is Mediation Mandatory?

Say your ex-wife is all amped up on the mediation idea. You and your attorney discuss it and your attorney thinks you will have a better chance winning child custody if you go to court, not to mediation.

In Virginia, as we said before, mediation is voluntary. You can say no. You can respectfully decline your ex-wife’s invitation to mediation, if you feel hesitation. Really, you will have your attorney do the respectful declining on your behalf (bad idea to jump out ahead of that one and contact the ex yourself), but still, you can say no.

Should you, though? Well, perhaps it will help you if you consider the Pros and Cons:

  • Tony Hawk — Pro skater boi
  • O.J. Simpson — Con, recently paroled

Actually, that does not seem helpful at all, and somewhat pointless …

Anyway, the J&DR Court has as its mission adjudicating some 13 different domestic segments, including “Children whose custody, visitation, support or parentage is a subject of controversy,” which is exactly what you want.

Hold on, though: your case bangs up alongside some fairly major and darkly deep topics, like “Adults accused of child abuse or neglect, or of offenses against a family or household member.” This means your case is vying for attention in J&DR Court against a lot — we mean a lot — of other cases.

So if you want your child custody dispute to be resolved quickly, mediation can sometimes do that better than J&DR Court.

Enemy Within?

The other reason you may, in fact, want to take your ex-wife up on mediation through the Virginia court system is because, no matter the outcome, you two still have to deal with each other for years to come. Do you really want your ex-wife to be some sort of enemy within your circle? Would it really be so bad if you two communicated with each other? The mediator could teach you communication techniques to help you resolve other, smaller issues later.

In Summation: Call The Firm For Men

If you want to relish all sorts of rolling legal terms like “in summation,” and “mens rea” and “wobbler,” go ahead; go to court. But if you want to get through the process of determining child custody and you feel strongly (and impartially) you have a good argument, you could go to mediation. But, again, in Virginia, it is both voluntary and confidential.

Please call The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or connect with us online, to speak with an experienced Virginia attorney. Our attorneys strive every day to protect men’s rights in family law, including child custody issues and child support. We can even help you decide if mediation is a good idea for you and your goals.

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