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What if he didn’t attend the court ordered mediation sessions?

October 2, 2017

When there are crucial points of disagreement in a divorce – such as child custody, visitation, and child support – the court might order a mediator to intervene on behalf of both parties so that they can amicably reach a fair agreement on all issues. However, because the points of disagreement may cause such strong and negative feelings, it’s not unusual for one spouse to refuse to attend the mediation. It might be a protest against the other party, a protest against what they feel will be unfair treatment, or it might simply be disinterest in the proceedings. No matter what the motivation for skipping court ordered mediation, realize that the party who refuses to attend can suffer serious consequences from doing so.

When a spouse doesn’t attend court ordered mediation

If one spouse shows up and the other doesn’t, it’s likely that the first time the court will order a rescheduled mediation session. This gives the other party time to explain why they didn’t attend the first session and an opportunity to attend the second session. It’s fair of the court to allow this second chance.

If a spouse misses the second mediation meeting, things get much more serious if there was no waiver filed. A waiver of mediation grants a spouse the permission of the court to waive mediation and move onto the next step of the divorce proceedings. While a judge may not always grant this waiver, if a spouse can file a motion for a waiver and have it granted, they don’t have to attend the mediation at all. However, if no waiver was filed or a waiver was not granted, now a spouse will be diving into the territory of contempt of court.

YES, a judge can find a spouse in contempt of court even for missing a mediation in a civil case. The consequences of this are as serious as normal contempt of court charges are. It’s a willful act by the spouse to skip vital parts of the divorce proceedings and disrespect shown toward the judge and legal process. Can this include jail time? YES. It’s important for attorneys to fully explain to their clients the consequences of skipping mediation sessions that were court ordered. It can get as far as a real contempt of court charge and even jail time if the spouse continues to refuse to acknowledge the will of the court.

It doesn’t often get to this level of punishment, though. The fact is that judges will sometimes listen many times to why a spouse was unable to attend proceedings. It all depends on the judge as to how far it gets. A judge might accept one excuse for not attending (such as a death in the family) but not another (the spouse just didn’t want to). Contempt of court is a serious charge and no spouse wants to face this charge. Most of the time they will listen to attorney’s advice and go to mediation if they are required to do so. However, there will always be some divorces that are more complex, emotional, and bitter than others, so there’s always a possibility of one spouse avoiding mediation sessions. When this happens, remember that serious consequences can follow. It’s always best to do what the court says and attend the sessions unless you can get a waiver of mediation.

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