MEDIATION In the JUVENILE courts

MetroWest Mediation Services currently mediates Harassment Prevention Order (HPO), Care & Protection Cases and Children Requiring Assistance cases in Middlesex Juvenile Court that are deemed appropriate for mediation by the Judge. 

Harassment Prevention OrderS

What happens when parents feel that their child is unsafe and that the school is failing to protect them? Parents often will file in court for a Harassment Prevention Order (HPO), which is a type of restraining order.

Examples of cases include classmates who have gotten into a physical altercation, engaged in threatening social media behavior, or fought over a third-party (e.g. boyfriend or girlfriend).

Mediation can be beneficial in these cases for many reasons:

  • Oftentimes (although not always), disputes among classmates that have gotten to the court level involve some level of responsibility among both youth.
  • The issuance of a HPO will go on a youth's court record. This can prevent a youth from being able to get certain summer jobs, such as working at a camp. If the HPO order is issued and violated, police become involved and it is criminal offense.
  • Even if a judge issues an HPO, the students will remain in the same school. It is beneficial for students to discuss how to address inevitable interactions in common spaces or classes, any misunderstandings involved in the conflict, and what to communicate to other students regarding the conflict.
  • Agreements made in mediation are more likely to be upheld than court orders, because parties have a chance to ensure that they work for them. 

HPO Mediation Works: In a pilot program of 18 mediations conducted at Framingham Juvenile Court, over 90% of mediations reached agreement. According to a report from a Juvenile Court judge, every agreement, except for one, was kept by the parties.

Parties Appreciate Mediation: In post-mediation evaluations, parties to the mediation are overwhelmingly positive about their experience. A parent who filed for the Harassment Order and then participated in mediation, wrote: "The mediators had outstanding compassion, wisdom, respect and patience."

Judges Appreciate Mediation: Judges refer cases for which they believe the parties would benefit from mediation. Some cases, including those involving significant physical harm or sexual assault are not referred to mediation. A Judge at a Juvenile Court wrote the following after a successful mediation: "The mediator worked her usual magic in the mediation room, and the parties were able to reach an agreement on a case where no one would have benefited from a litigated hearing.  

Care & Protection and Children Requiring assistance

What happens when a birth parent or guardian has a disagreement about an established visitation plan? They will often file a case in court in order to have a judge decide the merits of the dispute. The downside of this approach is that the case often lingers in the court system for years and the child or children suffer from the conflict between the birth parent and the guardian.

Examples of these cases include a disagreement between a birth parent and guardian over how often the birth parent should be able to spend time with the child. The guardian is often concerned about the child's safety.

Mediation can be beneficial in these cases for many reasons:

  • Both the birth parent and guardian have a strong interest in the well-being of the child(ren). Through providing the opportunity for them to have a facilitated conversation, mediation can help them reach a more optimal solution than a court decision.
  • The children need to have relationships with both the birth parent and guardian. When those adults are feuding, the children are caught in the middle.
  • The court process can take years to resolve. Mediation offers a more efficient way to reach a suitable resolution.

In the community

MetroWest Mediation Services can mediate cases before they reach the courts. MWMS accepts referrals from parents, school administrators and teachers who know of a conflict that would benefit from mediation. 

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

If your child is involved in a case in Framingham Juvenile Court, you can speak with the Judge or Clerk-Magistrate if you are interested in mediation. If the case is deemed appropriate, and both sides agree to it, then we can mediate on the day of the hearing.

If you would like mediation before going to court, please call us at 508-872-9495 or fill out the form below. We're happy to answer any of your questions and discuss our mediation services. During our initial conversation, we will gather information about your needs and assess if your case is appropriate for mediation. We will then schedule a mediation session at a date and time that works for all parties.

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