One of the most important changes to the new family court system is the requirement that parents who are not able to agree on shared parenting responsibilities must attempt to mediate their dispute.
Mediation is an informal process of working out differences between people using the help of a neutral third party called a mediator. Parents make the decisions; the mediator has no authority to decide any issue.
Some parents are not required to attempt mediation. For example, Virginia family mediation may not be required in cases where there is a history of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, substance abuse, mental illness, or a significant power imbalance. Every family court office provides premediation screening to determine if these factors might prevent parents from meaningfully participating in mediation.
If mediation is appropriate, the family court will designate a person or an agency to conduct the mediation. Parents must pay for mediation at an hourly rate based on their combined annual incomes. Many mediators volunteer their time to mediate cases for indigent parents.