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New Domestic Violence Law in Family Court Mediations

Clarkston Legal June 6, 2016

Last month, Governor Rick Snyder signed HB 4476 which outlines standards for mediators relative to domestic violence. This new law requires the domestic relations mediator to, “make reasonable inquiry as to whether either party has a history of a coercive or violent relationship with the other party.”

In Waterford & Clarkston, all divorce cases are required to go to mediation prior to trial. Since very few divorces are resolved through trial, most contentious cases are resolved at mediation.

The new law implements the domestic violence screening protocol provided by the State Court Administrative Office. This protocol was established in 2014 by family court professionals; it is a useful 60-page document that covers the entire mediation process within the context of domestic violence and includes a useful questionnaire and screening process.

Over the years, we have acquired significant experience dealing with cases that contain a domestic violence component. When one spouse or parent is the victim of continuous verbal abuse, coercion, control or physical abuse, there is no level playing field when it is time to leave.

Also, the well-recognized “cycle of violence” makes the victim reluctant to stop the cycle; the violence and abuse perpetuates itself until the situation comes to a head. Usually, this occurs within the context of an open case in the family court.

In all family court cases, mediation and arbitration have been disfavored modes of proceeding when domestic violence is present. This new law aims to better train mediators and family court professionals to recognize and address the problem of domestic violence.

The Oakland Mediation Center and HAVEN have been tracking the new legislation. OMC has scheduled training sessions for mediators in order to orient them to the domestic violence protocol and questionnaire.

If you or a family member are a victim of physical or verbal abuse, consider contacting HAVEN for some immediate options that will ensure your safety. Then consider contacting a lawyer to develop some long-range solutions.

Our law firm is ready to utilize this tool in dealing with these tough situations.