SB526: Mandatory dispute resolution; parties in cases involving custody, visitation, etc., must attend.

Offered January 13, 2010
Prefiled January 13, 2010
A BILL to amend and reenact § 20-124.4 of the Code of Virginia, relating to mandatory dispute resolution orientation sessions in custody, visitation, and child support cases.
Patron-- Norment

Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1.  That § 20-124.4 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 20-124.4. Mediation.

In any appropriate case the court shall refer the parents or persons with a legitimate interest to a dispute resolution evaluation orientation session to be conducted by a mediator certified pursuant to guidelines promulgated by the Judicial Council at no cost and in accordance with the procedures set out in Chapter 20.2 (§ 8.01-576.4 et seq.) of Title 8.01. In assessing the appropriateness of a referral, the court may ascertain on its own or shall ascertain upon motion of a party whether there is a history of family abuse. In all cases in which custody, visitation, or child support is initially contested, except those with a history of family abuse, the court shall refer the parties to, and the parties shall attend, the dispute resolution orientation session. If an agreement is not reached on any issue through further mediation as agreed to by the parties, prior to the return date set by the court pursuant to § 8.01-576.5, the court shall proceed with a hearing on any unresolved issue, unless a continuance has been granted by the court. The fee of a mediator appointed in any custody, support or visitation case shall be $100 per appointment and shall be paid by the Commonwealth from the funds appropriated for payment of appointments made pursuant to subsection B of § 16.1-267. The court may use its contempt power to enforce the provisions of this section.