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What If There Has Been Domestic Violence?

by Alaska Judicial Council
August 1998
If there has been domestic abuse or violence between you and the other party, you should understand how it can affect the safety and fairness of the mediation process. Talk to your lawyer, a domestic violence counselor, womens' advocate, or other professional who works with victims of domestic abuse before making the decision to mediate.

All family mediators should be knowledgeable and skilled in the screening and referral of cases involving abusive relationships. They should be able to explain the potential risks and benefits of mediation when control, abuse, and violence issues exist. Any mediator who handles such cases should have special training in domestic violence issues and should offer special techniques and procedures to minimize risk and maximize safety of all participants.

If you decide to try mediation, it is important to let the mediator know about the abuse or violence. Some ways you can tell the mediator include asking your lawyer to tell the mediator, or telling the mediator yourself. You can tell the mediator yourself in the initial telephone call, or when filling out any written questionnaires. If there is an active restraining order, make sure the mediator knows about it before the first session.

Ask what domestic violence training the mediator has had and if the mediator has worked with similar cases. Ask whether or not the mediator believes your case is suitable for mediation and why. Ask how the mediation process can be modified to make it safer and more fair. Can the mediation be done by telephone or in separate sessions ("shuttle mediation")? Can a support person (domestic violence advocate or your attorney) be present during the mediation? If your case is not suitable for mediation, what are your alternatives? Ask for referrals to other resources, such as a local domestic violence counselor.

The information on this page has been excerpted from the
Consumer's Guide to Mediation
published by the Alaska Judicial Council,
with funding from the State Justice Institute.

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