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A family struggles to get their lives back on track

A couple whose marriage is ending must make some difficult decisions about who should care for their daughter. DRC mediators help the couple form a plan for their daughter and take the next steps toward building a better life. Here’s their story.


Brook and Patty are the parents of a seven-year-old girl named Karen. The couple’s communication problems resulted in a lot of conflict, and now they are no longer married. By their own admission, both of them have made bad decisions in their lives and they are now dealing with the consequences. Karen currently lives with a grandmother, Judy.

Brook and Patty are trying hard to get their lives back on track. They are both concerned about Karen, and want to do what’s best for her. Their case ends up in court, and they become embroiled in a series of custody hearings. This time, with Judy’s help, they convince the judge that they are making progress and are ready for visitation with Karen.

A judge orders mediation

The judge sends them to mediation at a Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) to see if they can agree on a parenting plan. All three adults—mom, dad, and grandma—attend the mediation session with two mediators to negotiate the parenting plan.

During their first mediation each of the adults is given an opportunity to make an opening statement. By the time all three adults have had their say, it’s clear that there are serious issues and conflicts between them. Grandma Judy talks about how much she loves Brook and Patty, and wants them both to be good parents. Judy and would love to see the day when Karen can go back to live with her mom. Judy feels that her son, Brook, isn’t consistent in his time with Karen—that he can’t be counted on, and that he disappoints his daughter again and again. Patty confesses that drug use has ruined her life and caused her to lose her daughter. She says she will have to go to jail soon.

The family begins to open up

In spite of all their challenges, Brook, Patty and Judy begin to open up and share not only their thoughts and feelings, but also ideas of how they can work together to find a path forward. All three agree that it’s best that Karen continue to live with her grandmother, while Brook and Patty will work hard to establish a track record as good, dependable parents.

A settlement agreement is reached

After careful consideration, one mediator suggests that a settlement agreement outlining a visitation schedule for each parent might be more appropriate than a full-blown parenting plan. The settlement agreement will give each parent an opportunity to establish consistency. Patty, Brook, and Judy settle on a plan establishing specific visitation times, making an allowance for the 90 days that Patty will be incarcerated, and detailing an agreement that they will return to mediation to negotiate a complete parenting plan in six months or a year. Eventually, they will seek a change in custody.

Mediation results in a successful outcome for all parties

The session ends with an agreement signed by all three. Brook and Patty write on their mediation evaluation form that the process helped them to communicate and to better understand the issues between them. The next day, they appear in court and present their agreement. The judge commends them, stating that he thinks they are making good progress, and sends them off with no further court date needed.

The mediation process not only helped bring Patty, Brook, and Judy together to resolve their issues, but it also saved the court and state valuable time and money.

If you think mediation could help you——call today!

The mediation process is repeated thousands of times each year at DRCs throughout Washington. Contact your local DRC today.


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