This randomized controlled trial, which involved parents seeking to resolve their separation- or divorce-related disputes and reporting high levels of intimate partner violence (IPV), compared return-to-court (traditional litigation, n = 67 cases) to two mediation approaches designed to protect parent safety (i.e., shuttle, n = 64 cases; videoconferencing, n = 65 cases) at a court-annexed mediation division.
The immediate outcomes presented show some favorable results for mediation. Both mediation approaches were perceived as safe by mediators, and parents felt safer in mediation than in traditional litigation. Parents in mediation were also more satisfied with the process than parents in traditional litigation. Return-to-court cases took three times as long to reach final resolution as mediation cases. Mediators tended to prefer shuttle over videoconferencing, and videoconferencing cases were half as likely to reach agreement as cases in shuttle. Through coding the content of the document that resolved case issues, the study found no statistically significant group differences in legal custody, physical custody, or parenting time arrangements, and few differences in the likelihood of the document specifying a variety of arrangements (e.g., how to handle missed parenting time) or including safety provisions (e.g., supervised child exchanges). The study concludes that in cases with parents reporting concerning levels of IPV, when both parents are independently willing to mediate, mediation designed with strong safety protocols and carried out in a protected environment by well-trained staff may be an appropriate alternative to court. (Publisher Abstract)