(a) Scope. This rule applies to any proceeding before the court in which a parenting plan or residential schedule is at issue, except juvenile court dependency proceedings. A copy of the form entitled "Mandatory Parenting Plan Mediation Program" shall be served with the petition and included on the affidavit of service. The form is available on the Thurston County Superior Court website and in the courthouse.
(b) Mediation Required. All parenting plan and residential schedule issues shall be submitted to mandatory mediation within 120 days after the Respondent files a pleading. The mediation requirement may be waived by the court in cases involving domestic violence or in other cases upon a showing of good cause. A motion for waiver shall be noted before the court commissioner. An Order Waiving Mediation shall be filed with the court prior to the case being set for settlement conference or trial.
(c) Superior Court Jurisdiction and Other Rules - Show Cause Hearings. The requirement for mediation shall not prevent the judicial officer from entering temporary orders.
(d) Mediators. The court maintains a list of approved family law mediators, including the Thurston County Dispute Resolution Center. If the parties do not agree on a mediator, the court will assign a mediator upon request.
(e) Authority of Mediator. The mediator has the authority to determine the time, place and duration of mediation. In appropriate cases, the mediator shall have the authority to terminate the mediation prior to completion.
(f) Attendance. Mediation sessions shall normally include the parties only, but may, by agreement of the parties, include other persons. Further, the court may authorize the presence of an advocate during mediation, under the court’s discretion or under RCW 26.09.016. Attendance at mediation sessions is mandatory.
(g) Declaration of Completion. Within seven days of completion, a declaration of completion shall be filed by the mediator. The mediator shall advise the court only whether an agreement has been reached.
(h) Noting for Settlement Conference and Trial Setting. Either party may request a settlement conference at the commencement of mediation if issues in addition to a parenting plan or residential schedule are disputed. In cases in which a parenting plan or residential schedule are the only issues, the parties may request a trial date after the case has been in mediation for a period of 60 days, or sooner if a Declaration of Completion has been filed. The period shall begin when a mediator is appointed.
(i) Confidentiality. The work product of the mediator and all communications during mediation may be admissible for limited purposes (RCW 26.09.015). The mediator shall not appear or testify in any court proceedings except by court order (RCW 26.09.015).
[Effective April 1, 1987; amended May 1, 1990, February 1, 1994, July 1, 1998, February 9, 1999, September 1, 2012; September 1, 2014.]