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Mediation and Dispute Resolution in Indiana

Navigating the complexities of family disputes, especially when it involves the well-being and future of children, is a path fraught with emotional and legal challenges. One of the most constructive and less adversarial options available to parents facing such disputes is alternative dispute resolution in Indiana. This process allows parents to resolve their disagreements outside the courtroom, offering a private, efficient, and often less contentious means of reaching an agreement on child-related issues, especially when it comes to divorce and child custody matters.  

The importance of hiring an experienced Indiana family law attorney for parental arbitration cannot be overstated. The right legal counsel not only understands the intricacies of Indiana family law but also has the negotiation skills and compassion to guide Hoosiers through the parental arbitration process. This ensures that the decisions made are in the best interests of the children involved, while also respecting the rights and wishes of both parents. 

At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, our attorneys have extensive experience with parental arbitration. We are committed to providing our clients with the support and expertise needed to navigate these sensitive matters with dignity and respect for all parties involved. If you are exploring mediation, or any other form of alternative dispute resolution in Indiana, as a means to resolve your family law dispute, we invite you to contact us today at 317-857-0160 or to schedule a free consultation using our online contact form. Let our knowledge and experience be your guide towards a resolution that serves the best interest of your family. 

Keffer Hirschauer LLP: Indiana Family Law Attorneys

What is Dispute Resolution in Indiana? 

In family law, alternative dispute resolution involves appointing a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator or mediator, who makes decisions on disputes that arise during parenting. This can cover a wide range of issues, from child custody and parenting time to decisions about education and healthcare. Parents may find themselves in arbitration after realizing that traditional litigation is too public, too time-consuming, or simply ineffective in addressing the nuances of their family’s needs. 

What are the Rules of Dispute Resolution in Indiana? 

The Indiana Rules of Alternative Dispute Resolution govern the procedures for alternative methods of resolving disputes outside the traditional court system in the state of Indiana. These methods typically include arbitration, mediation, mini-trials, summary jury trials, and private judges.  

In family law cases, mediation is the most commonly used form of dispute resolution. Governed by Rule 2 of the Indiana Rules of Alternative Dispute Resolution, mediation “involves the confidential process by which a neutral, acting as a mediator, selected by the parties or appointed by the court, assists the litigants in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.”  

As stated in the rule, “the role of the mediator is to assist in identifying the issues, reducing misunderstanding, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise, and finding points of agreement as well as legitimate points of disagreement.” However, “any agreement reached by the parties is to be based on the autonomous decisions of the parties and not the decisions of the mediator.” 

Generally, it is to be understood that an agreement found in mediation may not actually resolve all of the disputed issues between the two parties. However, both sides are required to mediate in good faith in hopes of reducing points of contention.  

Referral to Mediation 

Per Rule 2.2, “at any time 15 or more days after the period allowed for peremptory change of judge has expired, a court may on its own motion or upon motion of any party refer a civil or domestic relations case to mediation.” Once a motion referring to a case to mediation is granted, a party may then object to the referral within a certain period of time (7 days for domestic relations; 15 days for civil cases) by filing a written objection. Once in receipt of the objection, the court is then obligated to consider the objection and any response to determine whether litigation should be mediated or not. When making such determinations, courts shall consider the following:  

  • The willingness of the parties to mutually resolve their dispute 
  • The ability of the parties to participate in the mediation process 
  • The need for discovery and the extent to which it has been conducted 
  • Any other factors which affect the potential for fair resolution of the dispute 

Selection of Mediator 

As stated in Rule 2.4, upon an order referring a case to mediation, the parties have either 7 (domestic) or 15 (civil) days to choose a mediator from the Indiana Supreme Court Commission for Continuing Legal Education’s registry; or agree upon a non-registered mediator, approved by the trial court. If a mediator is not selected by agreement, then the court will designate three registered mediators from the registry who are willing to mediate within the court’s district. From there both sides shall strike the name of one mediator, with the side initiating the case striking first. The mediator who remains after the striking process will be named the mediator.  

Cost of Mediation 

The costs of mediation, as outlined in Rule 2.6, are determined by the court; who shall set the hourly rate for mediation and determine the division of costs between the parties. The cost shall be predicated on the complexity of the case, the skill levels required to mediate the litigation, each party’s ability to pay. Unless agreed upon otherwise, both parties shall pay their mediation costs within 30 days after the close of each mediation session.  

Mediation Procedure 

The mediation procedure, governed by Rule 2.7 of the Indiana Rules of Alternative Dispute Resolution, requires that both parties and their attorneys be present at all mediation sessions, unless agreed upon otherwise. However, the mediator may meet jointly or separately with the parties and may express an evaluation of the case to one or more parties or their representatives.  

Before the first conference, each party may submit a confidential statement of the case to the mediator. This statement shall contain both the legal and factual contentions of the respective parties; the factors considered in arriving at the settlement posture; and the status of the settlement negotiations to date. This statement may be supplemented by exhibits and evidence.  

At any point after two sessions have been completed, either party may terminate mediation. However, the mediator may terminate mediation whenever they believe that the process would harm or prejudice on or more of the parties or the children; the ability or willingness of any party to participate meaningfully in mediation is so lacking that a reasonable agreement is unlikely; due to conflict of interest or bias on behalf of the mediator; or mediation is inappropriate for other reasons.  

Within 10 days after the mediation, the mediator shall submit a report of mediation status. As stated in the rule, “The report shall indicate that an agreement was or was not reached in whole or in part or that the mediation was extended by the parties. If the parties do not reach any agreement as to any matter as a result of the mediation, the mediator shall report the lack of any agreement to the court without comment or recommendation. With the consent of the parties, the mediator’s report may also identify any pending motions or outstanding legal issues, discovery process, or other action by any party which, if resolved or completed, would facilitate the possibility of a settlement.” 

If an agreement has been reached, either in whole or in part, it must be reduced to writing and signed by both parties and their counsel. In matters involving domestic relations, the agreement shall then be filed with the court.  

Confidentiality and Admissibility 

It’s important for all parties to understand that mediation sessions are confidential and closed to all persons other than the parties of record, their family law attorneys, and persons invited or permitted by the mediator. Furthermore, the mediator shall not be subject to process requiring the disclosure of any matter occurring during mediation, except in a separate matter as required by law. That said, as is made clear by Rule 2.11, this rule does not prohibit the disclosure of information authorized or required by law.  

As for admissibility, mediation is to be regarded as settlement negotiations, thus it is governed by Indiana Evidence Rule 408. Any evidence discoverable outside of mediation shall not be excluded just because it was discussed or presented in the court of mediation.  

What are the Pros and Cons of Dispute Resolution? 

For those involved in a dispute, understanding the rules of mediation is critical to ensuring a fair and effective resolution process. That said, it’s also important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of such procedures.  

Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution 

  • In most situations, the ability to decide whether to accept the resolutions presented by the other party.  
  • Higher likelihood of compliance between parties  
  • Lower costs, when compared to court 
  • Encourages more effective communication and compromise 
  • Promotes a healthier co-parenting relationship 

Drawbacks of Alternative Dispute Resolution 

  • May not be an option for some disputes 
  • Excessive fees in some situations, especially in disputes involving child custody and parenting time 
  • Limited access to the other side’s evidence 

Should I Hire a Dispute Resolution Attorney to Represent Me? 

Whenever a person anticipates that they’ll participate in mediation, or any other form of alternative dispute resolution in Indiana, it’s highly recommended to hire an experienced attorney. They can serve as an advocate during arbitration or mediation, ensuring their client’s interests are represented. Additionally, lawyers may assist in drafting settlement agreements and navigating the ADR process in accordance with Indiana’s specific regulations and procedures. An experienced Indiana family law attorney will also understand the nuances of state law that applies to the resolution of disputes and can advise on the legality and enforceability of ADR agreements. 

Need to Speak with an Indiana Family Law Attorney Today? 

Whether you’re facing mediation, arbitration, or any other ADR process, having legal counsel ensures that your interests are articulated and protected within the framework of Indiana’s specific ADR rules. If you’re looking to navigate the complexities of alternative dispute resolution, the Indiana divorce lawyers and child custody attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP stand ready with a robust combination of experience, knowledge, and a deep commitment to their clients.  

We encourage those seeking adept navigation through mediation over child custody, parenting time, and/or divorce to reach out for a free consultation by calling 317-857-0160 or completing our online contact form. Your resolution awaits with the right advocate by your side. 

Article Name
FAQs: Mediation and Dispute Resolution in Indiana
This article addresses some frequently asked questions on mediation and dispute resolution in Indiana.
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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