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New program to study mediation in custody disputes

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A joint project between the University of Notre Dame Law School’s legal aid clinic and the College of Arts and Letters’ Center for Children and Families will examine the effectiveness of mediation in child custody disputes – specifically the success of educational programs required by the courts and whether the type of mediation used makes a difference.

Margaret Brinig, the law school’s associate dean for faculty research, is one of the project’s principal investigators. She said little follow-up research has been conducted about whether mediation works in custody disputes.
 
“We know how many cases go to court, but we don’t have any good measures on people’s satisfaction with how much they learned, or whether or not mediated agreements work better than litigated outcomes over the long run,” Brinig said.

The project will test the success of education about healthy ways of resolving conflict and whether success is impacted by who serves as mediators – student lawyers or a combination of lawyers and other professional students like psychologists or social workers.

“We’re dealing with custody disputes that are referred to us by the courts here in St. Joseph County,” Brinig said. “They’re either couples who are divorcing and can’t resolve custody themselves, or they’re paternity actions where the couple has never been married, perhaps never lived together.”

Parents will be randomly assigned to a control group or to a treatment group. The control group will complete the normal requirement: watching a film about the negative effects of parents fighting in front of their children and other issues in the post-separation parenting process. The treatment group will participate in a psycho-educational program about conflict management. Both groups will undergo mediation through the legal aid clinic’s mediation program.

Michael Jenuwine, clinical professor of law and co-principal investigator, leads the mediators – law students sometimes teamed with social work or psychology graduate students. Participants will respond to surveys at various points in the study and their responses will inform future studies.

The study is slated to begin August 1. The project is funded by a research grant from Notre Dame’s Strategic Academic Planning Committee. Co-sponsors include the College of Arts and Letters and the law school. The law students will receive credit through the applied mediation course.
 

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  • Good Luck - NOT
    This is another "feel good" solutions to a very terrible problem. The problem is that one parent and her/his lawyer will never give in while the mediator will always pressure the other to be the better man and give in until he has nothing. Not even visitation rights. The other problem is that mediators often are corrupt and are influenced by intimidation by one lawyer.

    Mediation assumes that both parties are reasonable, want the best for their children, and have some intelligence. It ignores the vengful vexation of a woman who hides behind the fails of womanhood while exploiting the other.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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