Domestic Violence & Mediation
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In New Hampshire if you are going through a divorce or custody dispute there is a strong chance that rather than going before a judge in family court you may first be referred to something called mediation.
Mediation is a way of working out differences in a divorce or a custody case (*see parental rights and responsibilities below) outside of a courtroom. In mediation the two parties involved meet with someone known as a mediator. The point of mediation is to try and reach an agreement on the issues without having to go back into a courtroom.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities
**Note: Under New Hampshire law the use of the phrase “custody” has been replaced by “parental rights and responsibilities.” This is important to know because this phrase may come up in any paperwork and/or hearings you have with the court.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and you are referred to mediation there are many things to consider. An advocate with your local domestic violence provider (hyperlink to 4.1 crisis center) can talk about your options and why you may not have to participate in mediation. For more information call the toll free statewide domestic violence hotline at 1-866-644-3574.
Mediation may not work well in relationships where physical or emotional abuse is occurring or has occurred. In these cases mediation may be dangerous because:
- Your abuser may use violence, threats or emotional abuse to control and intimidate you into making agreements that you are not comfortable with.
- Your abuser may use the mediation process to continue his/her pattern of power and control over you.
- Your abuser may not want to work with you to come to a fair agreement, and even the best mediator can’t make this happen.
- If you have to worry about your safety, it may be difficult for you to focus on your other needs or the needs of your children.
- You may be bullied into agreeing to things that are not best for you or your children.
If you fear violence or any type of abuse from your ex-partner, you will need to decide if mediation is the right choice for you because the mediator and the court may not be able to keep you safe. It is important to seriously consider the possibility that your ex-partner may continue to be violent and/or abusive. Domestic violence often gets worse after the break-up of a marriage or relationship, or when the abuser feels like he or she is losing power and control over the victim.
If you are considering Mediation:
It is important that you prepare by safety planning. An advocate from your local domestic violence program can help you create a plan to ensure you mediate safely. You can also consider telling your mediator about the abuse in your relationship in advance. The mediator may be able to take steps to make you safer. If you do not feel safe or feel you can't stand up for yourself in mediation, you should ask that the mediation stop and that the case go back to court. The Coalition has also compiled a brochure with more information that anyone in an abusive situation should consider reading. Click on this link to download a copy: