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Mediation as a Powerful Tool in Domestic Relations Matters during Covid-19

Author: Zachary Chapman

Anyone who has been through a Domestic Relations matter in Colorado, including most modifications, know that the Courts order mandatory mediation to be completed before the Court will hear your case. Some jurisdictions throughout the state require the mediation to be schedule or even completed before it will schedule the final hearing in the matter before it. Mediation is a helpful tool to aid parties in coming to a complete resolution of all issues in their particular case and can even be helpful in settling a number of the issues before a hearing, minimizing the amount in dispute and ultimately enabling parties and counsel to limit what they have to prepare for when the time in front of the Judge comes.

Ask any Judge and they will tell you that they believe in mediation. They believe that it is helpful and necessary. Even though families are changing and dividing communication will almost certainly be necessary even after the case is complete. This couldn’t be more true for cases involving children. Most Judges will also tell you that they are in favor of mediation, but fear that parties attend mediation with no intention of settling the case or even the smallest of issues. This outcome is counter-intuitive for the reason the mediation is mandatory. Moreover, most Judges will warn that it is better to settle for something you can live with because one or neither of the parties my like or even be able to live with the Judge’s Order. Many of us are stubborn and compromise is hard, this aspect can be magnified in the emotionally taxing time where you and your family find yourself in the middle of these proceedings. Clearing a procedural hurdle may be a step necessary to move your case forward, but when used appropriately can be so much more than that. Mediation is even more important and helpful right now during the stay at home and shelter in place orders of the COVID-19 Outbreak of 2020.

The Colorado Courts have essentially closed their doors to Domestic Relations matters. Very few cases are currently getting heard by Judges or Magistrates. Emergency Motions to Restrict and Civil Protection Order Hearings are currently in the category of cases that are being heard, due in large part to the statutory time requirements set out in the Colorado Revised Statutes. Cases are on hold, Final Orders Hearings for Divorces and Allocations of Parental Responsibilities have been vacated with no date reset date. Lives don’t stop. Issues flare-up, compound, and new ones arise. The Court will not be there to help for everyday matters and filing an Emergency Motion to Restrict without proper cause will cost you, and not just in the Judge’s order and notes, but potentially attorney fees for the other party.

Mediation, however, could be the answer to the issues and problems popping up in family law cases around the state. Chances are both sides will want the issue resolved and will be motivated on that happening now rather than many months down the road when the Courts reopen and finally get around to scheduling everything, noting of course that everything that was vacated will have priority. Mediations can still be held even during the outbreak. Whether in person and the mediator uses the shuttle technique going room to room keeping socially distanced, over the phone via conference line, or video mediation. Mediation may once have been something you had to get through, but in these times, may be your best bet on getting the relief you need in a reasonable amount of time.