(a) Child Custody Proceedings Defined: For purposes of this rule, a child custody proceeding shall be defined as any proceeding before the court in which a parenting plan, custody or visitation is contested, except Juvenile Court or dependency proceedings.
(b) Mediation Required: Unless prohibited by law, all custody or visitation disputes shall be submitted to mandatory mediation before proceeding to trial. The mediation requirement may be waived by the Court for good cause shown. A motion for waiver shall be noted before the Court. An Order Waiving Mediation shall be filed with the Court prior to the case being set for trial.
(c) Continuing Superior Court Jurisdiction: The requirement of mediation shall not prevent a judicial officer from entering temporary orders.
(d) Noting for Mediation and Trial Setting:
(1) Upon the filing of a Response to the Petition which contests a parenting plan, child custody or visitation, making the proceeding subject to these rules, the Petitioner shall immediately note the proceeding for mandatory mediation and trial setting on forms prescribed by the Court. The form for mandatory mediation shall be entitled “Order to Transfer to Mandatory Mediation”, shall be substantially in the form found on the Court’s website at https://cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us/court-forms, and shall be signed by the attorney for each party and/or each party appearing self-represented (pro se) prior to presentation to the Court for approval. The form for trial setting shall be the standard Trial Setting notice.
(2) The refusal by an attorney or self-represented party (pro se) to sign the Order to Transfer to Mediation shall not delay a transfer or trial setting. Such refusal to sign shall be noted on the Order to Transfer to Mandatory Mediation.
(e) Appointment of Mediator: Mediation services are provided on a fee basis by Center for Constructive Resolution and Conversation. The parties may agree to use another qualified mediator subject to court approval.
(f) Authority of Mediator: The mediator shall determine the time and place of mediation. In appropriate cases, the mediator shall determine the duration of mediation and have the authority to terminate the mediation prior to completion.
(g) Attendance: Mediation sessions shall normally include the parties only, but may, by agreement of the parties, include other persons. Attendance at mediation sessions is mandatory.
(h) Declaration of Completion: Within seven (7) days of completion, a Certificate of Mediation Completion shall be filed by the mediator. Counsel and the parties shall be advised by the mediator, on a separate document attached to the Certificate of Mediation Completion, of the results and recommendations of the mediator.
(i) Payment: Mediation shall be paid equally by the parties, unless either or both parties are declared to be indigent or partially indigent. Financial declarations shall be executed by each party and a Court determination of the financial status shall be made prior to the commencement of mediation for consideration of indigency.
(j) Mediation Unsuccessful: If the parties fail to reach an agreement in mediation, an investigation by a Guardian ad Litem/Court Visitor may be ordered. The investigator shall not be the same person who mediated the case. Upon completion of the investigation, written recommendations shall be filed with the court.
(k) Confidentiality: The work product of the mediator and all communications during mediation shall be privileged and not subject to compulsory disclosure. The mediator shall not appear or testify in any court proceedings, unless otherwise required to be law.
(CCLCR 93 adopted by emergency court order, effective January 1, 2023)