Previous posts on this blog have discussed when child custody mediation might be a good idea for New Jersey parents to consider. Other posts have discussed those times in which parents might not want to pursue mediation as an option, such as when one of the parents in an upcoming divorce mediation is possibly the victim of domestic violence.
One thing New Jersey residents need to keep in mind, however, is that New Jersey judges have authority to order parents to participate in a child custody mediation if they are having disputes over custody or parenting time. This is so even if neither parent really wants to mediate their disputes.
While in most cases this might just be an annoyance for two parents who do not see the benefit of mediation and would rather just go to court, court-ordered mediation can be a real burden to a victim of abuse or domestic violence.
Mediation may force them to be in the same room or same building as the perpetrator, and it may present a situation in which the perpetrator can continue to hurt the victim, at least emotionally.
Fortunately, New Jersey’s rules have some exceptions to mandatory court-ordered custody mediation for situations involving domestic violence or other allegations of abuse.
Basically, if a victim has obtained a valid protective order under the appropriate legal provisions, he or she does not have to participate in mediation, and a court may not order otherwise.
Even if there is no protective order, however, a victim is generally under no obligation to mediate about issues involving domestic violence or abuse, or, for that matter, even discuss them with the mediator. The mandatory mediation itself can continue if the court so desires, but the mediator must steer clear of such topics.