Ashtabula County’s Mediation and Conflict Management Services Department (MCMS) provides services to the parties and attorneys involved with Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas (including the General Civil Division, Domestic Relations, Probate and Juvenile Courts) and the Eastern and Western Division County Courts. It is the policy of these Courts to encourage the use of mediation and conflict management methods. In line with this policy, MCMS serves the court, attorneys, plaintiffs and defendants interested in using methods other than litigation to resolve their disputes. In addition to mediation, MCMS also coordinates the guardian ad litem and parenting coordination programs, offers facilitation and restorative justice and twice a month presents a parenting class for parents who are involved in a divorce, dissolution or legal separation. These services are discussed below.
What is Mediation? As defined in ORC Sec. 2710.01, “Mediation means any process in which a mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between parties to assist them in reaching a voluntary agreement regarding their dispute.”
What is the role of the Mediator? The Mediator is an impartial third party responsible for maintaining the confidential and privileged nature of the process, providing a safe environment that allows for constructive discussions, managing the process to assure that each party has the opportunity to hear from other parties and to present their perspective on the issues in dispute. Parties may have an attorney or other individual accompany them to the mediation.
What is the role of the Parties? The parties (as well as their attorneys) are active participants throughout the mediation process and are responsible for working with the Mediator to develop an outcome that is agreeable to all. Unlike going to trial, where the Judge or Magistrate makes the final decision, the mediation process allows the opportunity for the parties to have control over the outcome and decide how to settle their dispute.
How confidential is mediation? According to Ohio law, mediation communications are, with some exceptions, privileged and will not be permitted in court. The parties may agree that all their discussions during a mediation session remain confidential. When mediation has been ordered by the Court, the Mediator may submit a report to the court stating only that the mediation took place, who was present at the mediation, and whether a resolution was reached. Otherwise, the Mediator discloses nothing to the Court or to any person outside of the mediation without the express approval of the parties.
What types of disputes are appropriate for mediation? All disputes are appropriate for mediation as long as the parties are willing and competent to engage in the process. When an ultimate settlement of the dispute is not achieved in the initial mediation session, the exchange of communication, clarification of the issues and the discussion of possible outcomes can be advantages in and of themselves. The Mediator will work with the parties and their attorneys to assess whether a specific case is appropriate for mediation, and will tailor the process to the needs of the parties.
GENERAL CIVIL COMMON PLEAS MEDIATION
Civil common pleas cases are frequently referred to mediation prior to or during a scheduling conference or pretrial. They may also be ordered at any other time during the case by the Judge or Magistrate. Cases can also be scheduled for mediation by agreement of the parties. To request that a case be referred to mediation, all parties or their attorneys should contact Kyra Keyes at (440) 576-3227 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pre-Mediation Statements Care due to the Mediator no later than 2 weeks prior to a scheduled mediation. This statement may be shared with other parties, but it is not required that it be shared. This statement is not to be filed with the Court and may be sent by mail to Kyra Keyes, Mediation Department, 25 West Jefferson Street, Jefferson, OH 44047 or e-mail at KKeyes@ashtabulacounty.us. This statement shall contain the following:
--If this is an insurance case, please provide the name of the insurance adjuster having primary responsibility for this matter.
--The name and title, if any, of the client or authorized representative who will be attending the mediation;
--A summary of the key factual and legal issues involved;
--Status of discovery, specifically what discovery has occurred, what is still outstanding, and will the outstanding discovery, if any, impede settlement discussions?
--The status of settlement discussions, including history of demands and offers; and
--Any other information that would be helpful to the Mediator in facilitating this mediation.
The Mediation Process During the initial contact between the mediator and the attorneys or parties, issues such as the appropriate time frame for the mediation, the presence of necessary parties and other matters relevant to the mediation will be discussed.
Typically in these common pleas court cases, the attorneys and their clients are present during all scheduled sessions. As the mediation session begins, all participants are encouraged to relate the issues they believe to be important for consideration, to listen to information and contributions from other participants, and to respond as appropriate and desired. During the course of the mediation process, ideas and proposals for settlement of the case will be exchanged and evaluated by the participants together and in private meetings.
When an agreement as to the settlement of the case has been reached, a summary of the agreement is prepared during the session and signed by the participants. This agreement will be held in the mediation file until the final Judgment Entry, prepared by the attorneys, has been filed with the Court.
I have received a Summons and a Complaint for Foreclosure. What is this? The Summons and Complaint are sent to notify a Defendant that he or she is being sued. The Complaint informs the Defendant of the Plaintiff’s claims and of what remedy the Plaintiff seeks from the court. In a foreclosure case, the Plaintiff/lender typically claims that a sum of money is owed, that this debt is secured by a mortgage on the property, and that the lender would like the property sold to satisfy the debt.
On the Summons, I am told to file an Answer. What is an Answer? An Answer to a Complaint is the Defendant’s response to the allegations made by the Plaintiff. Instructions for preparing and filing an Answer can be found on the Summons as well as the Request for Foreclosure Mediation.
The Summons says that if I do not file an Answer within 28 days, a default judgment could be issued against me. What is a default judgment?If a written Answer is not filed within the 28 days specified, the Plaintiff could file a Motion for Default Judgment . The court may grant this request by giving the Plaintiff the relief requested in the Complaint even if the Defendant disagrees with the allegations and believes they are not true, or would like the court to consider other factors. For this reason, it is important to file an Answer on time.
Once the Answer is prepared, and signed by you, it must be filed with the Clerk of Courts within 28 days from the date you receive the Summons, and copies must be sent to the Plaintiff or, if the Plaintiff is represented, to the Plaintiff’s attorney, which is listed at the end of the Complaint, and to all other Defendants. (This information appears on the Summons you receive with the Complaint.)
The Summons says that if I do not file an Answer within 28 days, a default judgment could be issued against me. What is a default judgment? If you do not file a written Answer within the 28 days specified, the Court will find that the allegations contained in the Complaint are true. If the Plaintiff files an application or Motion for Default Judgment, the Court may grant this request by giving the Plaintiff the relief requested in the Complaint even if you disagree with the allegations and believe they are not true, or would like the Court to consider other factors. For this reason, it is important for you to file an Answer on time.
With the Summons and Complaint for Foreclosure I received a Request for Foreclosure Mediation and a Questionnaire. What is Foreclosure Mediation? Mediation is a process in which you, the borrower, and the lender or the lender’s representative meet to discuss whether an agreement can be reached to cure any defaults in the loan, to re-negotiate the terms of the loan in a manner that could allow you to remain in your property or to reach agreement on other terms. If your case is appropriate for foreclosure mediation, the Court will provide a mediator. The mediator will set up the mediation meeting and will assist you in communicating with the lender. The mediator will not represent you or give you legal or financial advice.
What should I do with the Request for Foreclosure Mediation and Questionnaire? To determine if you are eligible for mediation, you should complete a Request for Foreclosure Mediation Questionaire by the Defendant/borrower and returned to the Ashtabula County Mediation Department, Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, 25 West Jefferson Street, Jefferson, Ohio 44047 at the same time the Answer is filed with the clerk of courts. Please note that submitting the Request for Mediation DOES NOT constitute filing an Answer. It is still necessary to file an Answer (as explained in the Summons) in order to avoid a default judgment.
Upon receipt of this Request for Foreclosure Mediation and Questionnaire by the Mediation Department, the information will be reviewed to determine whether the case will be mediated. If so, notification of the request will be sent to the court. A Plaintiff/Lender's Questionaire will then be sent to the Plaintiff/lender.
What will I need to do to prepare for the Foreclosure Mediation, and what should I bring to the mediation session? In order for the mediation to be as helpful and effective as possible, it will be necessary to gather various documents and pieces of information. This will be discussed during the first meeting with the Mediator. Correspondence between the Plaintiff/lender and Defendant/borrower can be brought to the first meeting.
What will happen at the mediation session ? At the mediation session, the Defendant/borrower will meet with the Mediator, the attorney (if a party is represented), the attorney for the lender, and the representative from the lender institution (this person may be attending the mediation by phone.) Financial information will be shared with the lender. The Mediator will help to organize the discussions about whether arrangements between the borrower and the lending institution can be made that will avoid the foreclosure.
What are some possible solutions that may be agreed upon? There are a number of possible solutions that you and the lender can explore. The solution will depend upon what you can afford (based on what your income and expenses are), what other resources you have, what type of loan you have, the amount you owe in arrearage and on the mortgage, and other factors that will be discussed during the mediation. The following are some possible solutions:
--Reinstatement: All amounts required to bring the loan current must be paid (including late fees, attorney fees, taxes, insurance, etc.) Once these amounts are paid, the regular payment plan will be in effect.
--Loan Modification: This is a written agreement between the borrower and the lender that permanently changes one or more terms of the mortgage. For example, the agreement could increase or decrease the interest rate or principal balance.
--Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure: The deed is voluntarily given to the lender in full satisfaction of the debt owed.
In addition, other arrangements between the borrower and lender may be possible that will help the borrower avoid a foreclosure or will help the borrower if a foreclosure is inevitable.
Legal Aid – call Intake at (440) 576-8120 or Toll Free at (888) 817-3777 for possible legal representation.
Catholic Charities – call Bill Niemi at (440)-992-2121 for free budget counseling and assistance with document preparation.
DOMESTIC RELATIONS MEDIATION
Referral of Cases In newly filed divorce cases, or in post decree cases, once the parents have completed the Parent Education Class offered through the Court, the parties are assigned to a Mediator and are notified by mail to contact that Mediator in order to schedule an orientation session.
Parents may also initiate mediation apart from a court order before or after their final hearing. In these situations both parties must contact Mediation and Conflict Management Services before any appointments will be scheduled. Parties wishing to notify the Court that they have requested mediation may file a Request for Domestic Relations Mediation with the Court.
The Mediation Process In the initial individual meeting, each party meets privately with a Mediator who will discuss the process and the party can discuss any questions or concerns they may have. If the Mediator assesses that the case is appropriate for mediation, a joint mediation session will be scheduled.
During the mediation sessions, the parties are encouraged to relate the issues they believe to be important for consideration and to listen to information and contributions from the other party. Ideas relating to the future parenting of their children as well as proposals for settlement of other issues important to the family will be exchanged and evaluated by the participants together and in private meetings.
When an agreement has been reached, a memorandum of this agreement will be prepared and given to the parties for their review and review by their attorneys, if any.
EASTERN AND WESTERN COUNTY COURTS
Referral of Cases Cases filed in the regular division of the County Courts may be ordered to mediation at a pre-trial conference or other hearing or at the request of the parties. Cases can also be scheduled for mediation in the absence of a court order when there is an agreement to do so among all participants.
The Mediation Process During the initial contact between the Mediator and the attorneys or parties, issues such as the appropriate time frame for the mediation, the presence of necessary parties and other matters relevant to the mediation will be discussed.
Typically in these mediations, the attorneys and their clients are present during all scheduled sessions. All participants are encouraged to discuss the issues they believe to be important for consideration and to listen to information and concerns from other participants. During the course of the mediation process, ideas and proposals for settlement of the case will be exchanged and evaluated by the participants together and in private meetings.
When an agreement as to the settlement of the case has been reached, a summary of the agreement may be prepared during the session and signed by the participants.
SMALL CLAIMS MEDIATION
Referral of Cases Upon the filing of a small claims complaint, the case is scheduled for mediation to be held at the Court in which the complaint was filed. Parties are notified by mail of the date at the same time they are notified of the small claims hearing. This notice also instructs parties to contact the Mediation and Conflict Management Services Department at (440) 576-4839 to confirm that they will attend as ordered.
The Mediation Process Due to the nature of small claims actions, parties who attend these sessions are generally unrepresented, though counsel is not excluded from the sessions if they wish to be there. The Mediator does not represent or provide advice to any party.
All participants are encouraged to relate the issues they believe to be important for consideration and to listen to information and concerns from other participants. During the mediation process, ideas and proposals for settlement of the case will be shared and evaluated by the participants.
When an agreement as to the settlement of the case has been reached, that agreement may be reduced to writing and signed by the parties.
PROBATE COURT MEDIATION
Referral of Cases: Cases filed in the Probate Court may be ordered to mediation at a pre-trial conference, other hearing or at the request of the parties when all parties agree to the mediation.
The Mediation Process: During the initial contact between the Mediator and the attorneys or parties, issues such as the appropriate time frame for the mediation, the presence of necessary parties and other matters relevant to the mediation will be discussed.
All participants are encouraged to share the issues they believe to be important for consideration and to listen to information and concerns from other participants. During the course of the mediation process, ideas and proposals for resolution of the dispute will be exchanged and evaluated by the participants together and in private meetings.
When an agreement as to the settlement of the case has been reached, a summary of the agreement
JUVENILE COURT MEDIATION
Mediation is available for the following matters within the jurisdiction of Juvenile Court: disputes regarding parenting (such as custody and visitation), status offenses including unruly behavior, delinquency, and school attendance (truancy).
Parenting The Judge or Magistrate will refer parties to Mediation and Conflict Management Services and parents may also request mediation on their own. When mediation is desired without a Court referral, all parties must contact the mediation department to indicate their desire to mediate before an appointment will be scheduled. A party who wishes to notify the court that they have requested mediation may file a Request for Juvenile Court Mediation with the Court, and should send this Request to the other parties in the case.
During the mediation process, the parties are encouraged to share the issues they believe to be important for consideration and to listen to information and concerns from the other party. Ideas relating to the future parenting of their children as well as proposals for settlement of other issues important to the family will be exchanged and evaluated by the participants together and in private meetings.
When an agreement has been reached, a memorandum of this agreement will be prepared and given to the parties for their review and review by their attorneys, if any. The parties may file this agreement with the court if they wish to do so.
Status Offenses and Delinquency In cases in which juveniles have had an initial complaint filed regarding their behavior, the Court may refer the juveniles and their parents to mediation designed to provide an opportunity for the family to decide on how those matters might be resolved constructively.
During the mediation, the Mediator helps parent and child discuss their problems and concerns and works with them to develop an agreed plan that addresses them in a way that is satisfactory to both parties. An agreement may be prepared and signed by child and parent.
School Attendance The goal of school attendance mediation is to identify what can be done to help parents and guardians ensure that a child is attending school and getting their academic needs met.
School personnel such as attendance officers or administrators may participate in the mediation session to assist the family in identifying specific steps that can be taken to promote consistent school attendance and positive academic performance.
"NEW BEGINNINGS" PARENT EDUCATION CLASS
This is a three-hour, court mandated program for parents who are getting a divorce, dissolution or a legal separation. The program provides education on the effects of divorce on children and teaches skills for reducing conflict between parents and keeping children “out of the middle.”
2019 New Beginnings Schedule
Parenting Coordination is a child-focused dispute resolution process ordered by the Court to assist parties in implementing their parenting order, improving their communication and in working together to parent their child(ren). The Parenting Coordinator is a professional trained in accordance with the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Rules for Superintendence of the Courts (Sup R 90.)
When a Parenting Coordinator is appointed pursuant to Local Rule 22A, the Court will issue an Order Appointing Parenting Coordinator (create link to the Order.) At the end of the Parenting Coordinator’s term, parties may file a Parenting Coordinator Evaluation form (create link to the form) to provide input to the Court regarding their experience with the Parenting Coordinator.
The Mediation and Conflict Management Services department is responsible for coordinating the Court’s Parenting Coordination program in accordance with Sup R 90.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROGRAM
A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is a professional trained in accordance with the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Rules for Superintendence of the Courts (Sup R 48) who is appointed to assist the Court in its determination of a child’s best interest. The Judge or Magistrate hearing the case may order appointment of the GAL pursuant to Local Rule 22.
The Mediation and Conflict Management Services department is responsible for coordinating the Court’s Guardian Ad Litem program in accordance with Sup R 48.