Do I have to go to mediation? And why do I have to take a parenting class first?

I have had many parents ask me why they have to participate in mediation. They often explain that they have not been able to reach an agreement with their child’s other parent on their own, and therefore mediation just won’t work. What those parents don’t realize, and what I explain to them, is that Wisconsin’s family court laws have made mediation the required first step.  Wisconsin Statute 767.405(5) directs that a court must refer parents with placement and custody disputes to their county’s mediation program.  In addition, parents are required to attend a parenting class, which usually doubles as the mediation orientation session. The focus of this programming is often related to co-parenting communication and explanations of how the mediation process works.   Though you should not agree to any custody arrangements you can’t deal with for at least a couple years, most of the local counties have very high rates of successfully getting parents to an agreement.   There are only limited circumstances in which you can bypass the mediation process and proceed directly to a GAL (guardian ad litem).

Are you starting mediation soon? Be sure to check when your county offers its parenting class/mediation orientation which you must do before you can start the process with the other parent. At the time of this blog post, many counties in the Fox Valley only offer one session a month (Outagamie, Winnebago) or only every other month (Fond du Lac). Missing that session means the process is delayed.

Do you want to discuss this process?  See if it can or should be bypassed?  Contact Petit & Dommershausen today 920-739-9900!

Steffanie Walczak is an associate attorney at Petit & Dommershausen, SC.  Her practice focuses primarily on family law (divorce, paternity, custody, child support, maintenance and property division) and criminal defense.  She practices in a wide range of counties throughout Northeast Wisconsin, including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet and Fond du Lac counties. Please give her a call today at 920-739-9900.

See the below links for useful information in your area, but please also consult an experienced lawyer for additional insight:

Outagamie County

Winnebago County

Calumet County