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Mediation Statistics

Mediation works.

In mediation, people talk with the assistance of a trained mediator who doesn’t take sides. They have the chance to be heard, to ask questions and to make their own decisions. Before mediation, over 95% doubt that they will make any progress. They think “If we were going to be able to talk things out, we would have done that already. Things are worse than ever now.”

However, 71% reach agreement on some or all of their issues in their divorce or custody case in this judicial district. And they’re surprised! And their attorneys are surprised, because they have heard how difficult the other person is.

Why DOES mediation work? Although people are doubtful, they usually DO want to talk. They have things they want to say. They want to be heard. They want to ask some questions. They really want to be able to make their own decisions, in spite of their anger, frustration, and distrust. Doubt is normal, but it does NOT predict whether mediation will be useful. In mediation, people usually hear new information, feel heard, and increase their understanding of the situation. That can help them reach agreements and begin to move on emotionally and legally.

Ten Plus Years of Family Mediation

In August 1996 the Sixth Judicial District of Iowa implemented a Family Mediation Program that required people in divorce and custody cases to try mediation before they could get a court decision. In the year 2000, Polk County Iowa initiated a similar requirement. Douglas County Nebraska adopted their local court rule providing for mediation in domestic relations cases in December 1995. In the years that followed implementation, people have mediated in thousands of cases.

Comments from people who have mediated

Comments from parties include: “I like making the decisions.” “I believe (we) came away feeling better about (our)selves and each other.” “I finally felt that I was being ‘heard’.” “It saved lawyer fees and time in court.” “The 2.5 hours with the mediator did more to move things along than the last 2.5 months.”

Mediation may save money

Mediation can save time in resolving matters outright, or in reducing the number of matters to be decided in court. For most people, time is money. Given the expense of going to trial and having no guarantee as to the final outcome, having a result that is liveable for both is priceless.

People who mediate are less likely to return to court

Those jurisdictions utilizing mediation reviewed their cases to determine whether mediation affected the re-litigation, or modification, rate in custody and visitation disputes. Their studies found that modifications are lowest in cases that mediated and re-litigation is 7-8 times more likely in cases that don’t mediate initially. This means people are making lasting decisions in mediation or have been able to make any new decisions themselves, without going back to court.

Mediation saves courts time and results in greater efficiency

For the courts utilizing mediation, the number of temporary hearings dropped and trials were shorter because people have made some of their decisions in mediation. This reduces the staff-time needed to process a case, so other cases can be heard sooner.

The earlier the better

A 2001 study by the State Justice Institute, ”Timing is Everything,” focused on two Virginia mediation programs and the effect of timing on mediation in divorce and custody cases. The study concluded that mediating as soon as possible results in fewer hearings, fewer mediation sessions, and an increased likelihood of the parties spending less time in mediation and making their own agreements. All of this benefits the parties and any children.

Mediation is inappropriate in some situations

If a person is afraid to be in the same room with the other party or doesn’t feel able to speak up or disagree with them, mediation may not be appropriate. People should share these concerns with their attorney and their mediator before any mediation is scheduled.

In spite of own doubt

In spite of their own doubt, parties often find themselves able to communicate better and make their own decisions in mediation. Even when they do not reach complete agreements, they are often better able to move on emotionally and legally.

Mediation is here to stay, and everybody wins.

For more information on mediation, call Southwest Iowa Mediation Center, at 712-310-8243.

Mediation works. Give it a try.

Statistics from the Sixth Judicial District of Iowa

Sixth Judicial District Family Mediation Program
UPDATE - March 2004
Implemented by the District Court Judges in August 1996

  • People resolve 10% of all dissolution cases per year in mediation in this district, slightly less than the number of contested trials.
  • Doubt and skepticism are common among parties before mediation, yet 75% of the parties reach agreement on some or all issues. Doubt does not predict the outcome or value of mediation for the parties.
  • Parties are told that they can terminate mediation at any time. Why do they stay?  They usually stay because they have something they want to tell the other person or they have questions or they want to have a say in what is decided.
  • The average amount of time (and cost) per mediation has dropped significantly since the program was implemented. In 2001, parties mediated an average of 2.6 hours to reach agreement on all issues, an average of 2.3 hours to reach agreement on some issues and an average of 1.9 hours to reach no agreement.
  • In cases that originally mediated, the rate of modifications that go to trial is far lower (2%) than in cases that originally stipulated (16%) or were decided in court (14%).
  • Impact of mediation on the courts (according to court staff)
    • Number of temporary hearings dropped by 60%. According to local attorneys, the drop is due to attorneys helping their clients working out their differences as well as due to parties mediating agreements.
    • Shorter trials . In Linn County, before the program was implemented, 25% of the trials lasted 3-5 days. Currently, only 15% of the trials last longer than 2 days. When parties reach agreement on some or all issues, the court benefits because there are fewer or shorter trials, according to court staff.
    • This saves over $25,000, or 25% of one district court judge’s time, a significant savings during a time of budget cuts.
  • Voluntary mediation is slightly more likely to result in agreement than court-ordered mediation.
  • The program materials encourage parties to consult with their attorneys before and after mediation. Parties do not sign agreements in mediation.
  • 86% of the parties said they thought their mediated agreement was fair.
  • 83.9% said they were satisfied with their mediator.
  • 84.5% said they were able to express themselves in mediation.
  • Parties
    • “I had a chance to tell him some things I haven’t been able to say before this.”
    • “We were able to talk about things. ”
    • “It made us as parents take responsibility for our child and make decisions based on what really is in his interest. ”
  • Attorneys
    • “People like to control their own destiny, and they like to participate in the process.”
    • “Helps to set rules for future discussions between them.”
  • Judges
    • “Mediation gives parents a way to deal with conflict without using their children as a weapon.”

Data derived from a random sample of 150 Linn County dissolution cases filed in 1997-98. The sample consisted of 50 dissolution cases in which the parties resolved custody and visitation issues by stipulation without mediation; 50 dissolution cases in which the parties mediated custody and visitation issues; and 50 dissolution cases in which the court tried custody and visitation issues. The method of resolving the modifications was then compared with the method by which the original dissolution was resolved.

Mediation: It's your solution.