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Mediation in the Alaska Court System

Frequently Asked Questions | Mediation Resources | Court Mediation Programs | Court Mediation Publications | Self-Help Center

This page provides general information about mediation in Alaska and some of the specialized programs and services offered by the Alaska Court System.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mediation

What is mediation?

View video: Options to Resolve Your Divorce or Custody Case: Mediation, Settlement, and Reaching Agreement Play Options to resolve your case: mediation, settlement, and reaching agreement Video

Mediation is an informal, voluntary and confidential way to resolve disagreements without giving the decision-making power to someone else, like a judge. A neutral person, called the mediator, helps people:

The mediator does not tell the parties what to do, or make a judgment about who's right or wrong. Decision-making stays with you.

Mediation is one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which is a way of resolving conflicts outside the formal court process. Other ADR methods include arbitration, mediation-arbitration, early neutral evaluation, and settlement conferences.

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Why use mediation?

People choose mediation for many reasons:

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Should we mediate if there's been domestic violence between us?

Mediation may NOT be appropriate when there has been domestic violence between you and another person in the case.

If you are considering mediation with a person who controls or attempts to control you through force, intimidation or the threat of violence, you should request a private session to discuss this with the mediator.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you cannot be required to participate in mediation unless you want to. Mediation in cases involving domestic violence must be provided by a mediator who is trained in the dynamics of domestic violence to protect your safety and any household member. As a victim of domestic violence, you are entitled to bring a support person or advocate to the mediation, including a lawyer. (See Alaska Statutes Sections 25.20.110 and 25.20.080).

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What issues can we mediate?

Just about anything can be mediated when people are open to the idea of reaching agreement. Some of the issues that are particularly well suited for mediation include:

It is up to you whether you want to use mediation for many issues or just one issue. Mediation can be an important communication tool for parents who have a continuing relationship with respect to their children.

The 22 minute video, Two Homes, shows how mediation can be heplful in resolving co-parenting disagreements.

Some courts offer low-cost mediation programs for certain cases. Check with your local court to see if these services are available to you.

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Can we mediate issues before we file a court case?

Yes. In fact, many people avoid a contested case by going to mediation before filing a case.

For example, if you and your spouse agree that it is time to get divorced, but are unsure about the division of property or the parenting plan for the children, you might find mediation helps you reach agreement on all issues and enables you to file a dissolution instead of a contested divorce.

Another example is when parents need to modify a custody or support order from years ago. Engaging in mediation before you file a Motion to Modify may help to reduce family stress and bring about a faster resolution than could be reached in a drawn out court battle.

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If we have a court case open, does the judge need to know we are doing mediation?

Yes, so that the judge can give you time to work through the mediation process before setting a trial. If the judge ordered the mediation, he or she will know it is going on. If you decide to do it on your own, you should file a notice to the court that you are engaging in mediation and request that whatever pre-trial schedule you are following be adjusted as needed.

Once the judge is aware of the mediation, you usually won't file motions or other documents except to update the judge on the progress of mediation. The court case is still open during mediation, but generally you won't be actively participating.

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Is what we say in mediation confidential?

Civil Rule 100 and Probate Rule 4.5 state that mediation discussions are confidential when the court orders mediation. This allows you to speak openly and honestly without having to worry that what you say will be used against you later.

However, if you have any concerns about whether you should talk about a particular subject, you can and should talk privately with a lawyer before discussing the matter.

Also, in addition to the court rules, most mediators also have a written confidentiality agreement for you to sign before starting mediation. The mediator should explain the confidentiality agreement to you, including any limits on confidentiality.

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How long does it take to mediate?

It can take one hour to many hours - one session to several. It depends on:

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How much does mediation cost?

Mediators charge different rates, so you will want to ask what a mediator charges.

Under Civil Rule 100 and Probate Rule 4.5, when the mediation is court ordered, those involved share the cost of mediation unless the judge orders otherwise. When you mediate and it isn't court ordered, you decide how to share the cost.

Some courts offer low-cost mediation programs for certain cases. Check with your local court to see if these services are available to you.

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How do we get into mediation?

If you have a court case open, there are two ways:

  1. you can agree with the other side to mediate, or
  2. you can ask the judge to order mediation under Civil Rule 100 or Probate Rule 4.5

You usually choose your own mediator and pay him or her. Or, in those courts that offer low-cost mediation programs for certain cases, you will need to follow the local procedure to sign up. Please check with your local court to learn more.

If you do not have a court case, you simply find a mediator that you like and make arrangements with him or her.

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How do we find and choose a mediator?

Unless you are participating in a court sponsored program, you call around and talk to people until you find someone you like.

Please note that in Alaska, anyone can act as a mediator. There are no state standards or licensing requirements. Mediator education, training, experience and style vary. It is up to the people involved to decide what they need in a mediator and to be sure that the mediator they choose has the necessary skills and approach. To help parties choose a qualified mediator, the Alaska Judicial Council publishes a free guide to selecting a qualified mediator: Consumer Guide to Selecting a Mediator.

Other resources to help you find a mediator:

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What happens in mediation if one or both of us have attorneys?

Mediation can still happen, but the client and attorney need to decide whether the attorney will attend, and then be sure to tell the mediator and other party whether the attorney will be coming. There is no requirement for a represented person to bring his or her lawyer, it is up to the lawyer and client to decide.

Legal advice before or after a mediation session can be very helpful and valuable to help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities and to develop options for settling. So even if you are representing yourself in the court case, you might consider talking with a lawyer about the agreements you are reaching in mediation.

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What happens when we reach agreement through mediation?

The agreement needs to be written down and both of you must sign it.

If you have a lawyer, ask the lawyer how this will be handled. Once the agreement is written up and signed, the lawyer will file it in court for the judge to finalize.

If you do not have a lawyer, ask the mediator how this will be handled. The mediator may provide forms or ask you to write things up yourselves. Once the agreement is written up and signed, you will need to decide which party is responsible for filing the agreement.

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What happens if we don't reach agreement?

Even when mediation does not immediately settle all the issues in a case, it can help you focus on the issues and settle the case later. Mediation can make the case move more efficiently through the court because you may be able to narrow the issues that you disagree about and prioritize your goals.

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Are there special resources for family law cases?

Yes. The Family Law Self-Help Center website provides information to help you develop a parenting plan. You could even use some of the court forms to write up an agreement reached in mediation. If you have questions about how to file things in court or how to get your case moving again, the Self-Help Center Helpline can assist you in identifying the next step to take.

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Mediation Resources

CAUTION: Anyone can act as a mediator in Alaska - there are no state standards or licensing requirements. It is up to the parties and judges to decide what kind of training and experience they need in a mediator and to ensure that the mediator they select has the necessary skills.

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Court Mediation Programs

Some courts have programs offering mediation at no cost, or for a small fee, in these types of cases filed with the court:

Click on the type of case to find out details about these mediation programs and which courts offer them.

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Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program

Courts in Anchorage, Bethel, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Palmer, and Sitka offer mediation in child custody cases for parents whose combined net incomes are less than $100,000. The mediator helps parents resolve disputes about access and visitation concerns and create workable co-parenting plans. There is no fee for this service unless parents wish to mediate additional issues or require more time than allowed by program.

The publication, Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program: Helping Parents Resolve Custody and Visitation Disputes, PUB-26 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo , provides additional information. You may also contact your court for information.

The 22 minute video, Two Homes, shows how mediation can be heplful in resolving co-parenting disagreements.

The Confidentiality and Mediation Agreement - Child Custody and Visitation Adobe Acrobat PDF logo describes mediation, the role of the mediator, and how mediation is confidential in these cases.

The form, Motion for Mediation through Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program, DR-405 [Fill-In PDF], may be used to request mediation if your case is in one of the courts named above.

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Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship Mediation Program

Anchorage, Bethel, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Kenai, Kodiak, Palmer, Sitka, and Valdez courts offer mediation services in adult guardianship and conservatorship cases. The mediator helps those involved make decisions and create plans that will best meet the needs of the vulnerable adult. There is no fee for this service.

The publication, Guardianship and Conservatorship Mediation Program, PUB-37 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo, provides additional information. You may also contact your court for information.

The Confidentiality and Mediation Agreement - Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship Adobe Acrobat PDF logo describes mediation, the role of the mediator, and how mediation is confidential in these cases.

Court form Request for Court Sponsored Guardianship Mediation, MED-100, (fill-in form Adobe Acrobat PDF logo), may be used to request mediation if your case is in one of the courts named above.

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Child in Need of Aid Mediation Program

Courts in Anchorage, Bethel, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Kenai, Kodiak, Nome, and Palmer offer mediation services in Child in Need of Aid (CINA) cases. There is no fee for this service. The mediator helps parties in these cases resolve disagreements about case plans, placement, family-child contact, and many other concerns.

The publication, Child in Need of Aid Mediation Program, PUB-25 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo , provides additional information. You may also contact your court for information.

The Confidentiality and Mediation Agreement - Child in Need of Aid Adobe Acrobat PDF logo describes mediation, the role of the mediator, and how mediation is confidential in these cases.

Court form Request for Court Sponsored CINA Mediation, MED-200, (PDF Fill-In) , may be used to request mediation if your case is in one of the courts named above.

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Small Claims Mediation Program

Anchorage District Court regularly offers mediation in small claims cases. This free service is provided by volunteer, trained mediators who assist parties in resolving the issues in their case. Mediation is carried out on the morning that a case is set for trial, and any case that is not resolved through mediation is generally returned to the courtroom the same morning for trial.

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Court Mediation Publications


Rev. 6 January 2014
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