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Joint Court Mediation Courts Mediation
Program Coordinator, Mediator
Wendy S. Hawbaker, J.D.
wshawbaker@ashtabulacounty.us
Phone: (440) 576-3239
Fax: (440) 576-4639

Mediation Coordinator, Mediator
Tammy Martin Kosier, J.D.
tmkosier@ashtabulacounty.us
Phone: (440) 576-3628
Fax: (440) 576-4639

Administrative Assistant
Debra Cline
dlcline@ashtabulacounty.us
Phone: (440) 576-3227
Fax: (440) 576-4639

Table of Contents

 1  Introduction
 2  Mediation FAQ’s
 3  Civil Common Pleas Mediation
 4  FAQ's about Foreclosure Mediation
 5  Domestic Relations Mediation
 6  County and Municipal Courts Regular Docket
 7  Small Claims Mediation
 8  Juvenile Court Mediation
 9  Other Non-Court Related Mediation

INTRODUCTION

In the spring of 1997 the Supreme Court of Ohio announced an effort to institutionalize mediation throughout the state. This was to be accomplished by grant funding that would make it possible to initiate mediation services through local courts. Grants were awarded for a three-year period to allow time for programs to develop enough so that local funding could be secured.

Through their initial discussions of the program the judges believed that based on the needs of county residents and the court system a comprehensive mediation program could effectively address a variety of disputes. With the goal of developing such an effort the Joint Court Mediation Program (JCMP) got underway in December 1997. Through the cooperation of Ashtabula County judges, court administrators and the county commissioners, local funding began in the fall of 2000.

Since that time the program has grown to include mediation of disputes within every court jurisdiction in the county. Civil cases range from small claims matters to common pleas suits. Referrals of juveniles with school attendance and/or unruly behavior problems are regularly made through Juvenile Court and resolution of parenting concerns (custody and visitation matters) is made available through the Family Court Services office.

Participants in mediation sessions have consistently indicated they believe in the worth of a non-adversarial process of resolving disputes made available through the courts. As research has demonstrated, mediation decreases the amount of time necessary to resolve matters (thereby reducing the cost of litigation) while increasing satisfaction with the justice system. Providing these services in most instances without charging a user fee means improved access to the justice system for lower-income residents while reducing the number of cases on the court docket forestalls the need for additional court personnel.

Please see the other areas on this website for more detailed information about mediation of specific kinds of cases.

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MEDIATION FAQ’s

How does the mediation process work? Simply defined, mediation is a process wherein a trained neutral assists parties in developing a cooperative, self-determined resolution to the issues in their dispute. Typically sessions are confidential with no statements revealed to anyone not a party to the mediation. As a non-adversarial method of dispute resolution the goal of mediation is a “win-win” conclusion that derives from the mutual interest of the participants rather than a “win-lose” outcome resulting from a third-party decision.

Parties retain their ability to obtain a resolution to their dispute in situations when mediation does not result in a settlement. In a court-referred case, for example, issues not resolved in mediation are heard by the court and decided on by a magistrate, judge or jury. Similarly, parties with a complaint about follow through on a mediated agreement are often entitled to relief in court.

What roles do the participants have in a mediation session? The mediator is responsible for creating the atmosphere for productive discussion, conducting the process in such a way that the participants are able to communicate effectively with one another concerning the issues to be resolved and possible options to that resolution. The parties to the dispute as well as those assisting them such as attorneys are active participants throughout the mediation and assume the task of developing an outcome that is agreeable to all. Unlike going to court, where a judge or magistrate makes the final decision, the parties 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. Additionally, the parties may agree that all their discussions during a mediation session remain confidential. In situations where the court has ordered that mediation be attempted, the mediator may submit a report to the court stating that the mediation took place and that the matter did or did not settle. Otherwise, the mediator discloses nothing to the court.

What types of disputes are appropriate for mediation?  All disputes are "appropriate" as long as the parties are willing to engage in the process. Though an ultimate settlement of the dispute may not be achieved, the exchange of communication, clarity and opportunity for understanding of the issues and possible outcomes can be advantages in and of themselves. Examples of factors that are taken into consideration in making the decision to mediate include the ability and willingness of the parties to communicate effectively and the legal nature of the issues involved.

How does mediation differ from other types of dispute resolution?  The clearest distinction between mediation and similar means of addressing disagreements lies in who makes the decision. For example, the arbitration process results in a ruling by the third party (in this case the arbitrator) which may or may not be binding on the parties. In mediation the decision is made by the parties themselves.

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CIVIL COMMON PLEAS MEDIATION

Referral of Cases  Civil Common Pleas cases are frequently referred to mediation prior to or during the scheduling conference scheduled by the Court. Cases may also be ordered to mediation during the course of any other court hearing or appearance. 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 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.

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FAQ'S ABOUT FORECLOSURE MEDIATION

I have received a Summons and a Complaint for Foreclosure. What is this?  The Summons and Complaint are sent to notify you that you are being sued. The Complaint informs you 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 you owe a sum of money, that this debt is secured by a mortgage on your 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 your response to the allegations made by the Plaintiff. It should contain:
--the name of the Court,
--the name of the Plaintiff/Lender (the person or institution who sued you),
--the name of the Defendant or Defendants (your name),
--the case number,
--the name of the judge assigned to the case,
--the title “Answer” (this can be written on the Answer in the same place as the title appears at the top of the Complaint. Replace the word “Complaint” with the word “Answer” as the title of the document you are preparing.)
--your signature at the end of the Answer you prepare; and
--a statement at the end of the document following your signature certifying that you sent a copy of the Answer to each Plaintiff and to all other Defendants, and a date those copies were sent.

In the body of this document, you should respond to (admit or deny) each and every paragraph in the Plaintiff’s Complaint. If you do not know or are not sure about whether a statement is correct, you should respond by saying “The statements made in this paragraph are denied for want of knowledge.”

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 the Request for Foreclosure Mediation and the Questionnaire for Foreclosure Mediation and return it to the Ashtabula County Mediation Department, Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, 25 West Jefferson Street, Jefferson, Ohio 44047 at the same time you file your Answer with the Clerk of Courts. Please note that your case will not be considered for mediation unless you have completed this form and you have filed an Answer as explained in your Summons.

Upon receipt of this Request for Foreclosure Mediation and Questionnaire by the Mediation Department, notification of your request will be sent to the Plaintiff/Lender along with Plaintiff’s Mediation Questionnaire for Foreclosure Cases. When this form is returned to the Mediation Department all information will be reviewed to determine whether this case will be mediated, and a date for the mediation will be set.

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 for you to gather various documents and pieces of information. This information will be used at the mediation and in your discussions with the Plaintiff/Lender. The following is a list of information that will be needed for the mediation:
--Information concerning money you may have available to contribute to any arrearages on the mortgage, and when that money would be available to you.
--Proof of income including all income that can be used to pay the mortgage, whether earned by the titled owner or by anyone else in the household. You should have 2 or 3 pay check stubs from each person who contributes to the household income, current bank statements, tax returns or profit and loss statement if you are self-employed.
--A detailed explanation of your expenses. This should include every expense you can think of.
--Names and addresses of any other creditors with liens on the property.
--Amount of property taxes owed on the property, if any.
--Proof of homeowner’s insurance, if any.

What will happen at the mediation session?  At the mediation session, you will meet with the mediator, your attorney (if you are represented), the attorney for the lender, the representative from the lender institution (this person may be attending the mediation by phone) and the mediator. You will share your financial information with the lender. The mediator will help to organize your discussions about what arrangements you and the lending institution can agree upon that will allow you to keep your home.

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 your loan current must be paid (including late fees, attorney fees, taxes, insurance, etc.) Once these amounts are paid, you will be back on your regular payment plan.
--Forbearance or Repayment: Regular monthly payments are made according to your loan agreement, and an additional monthly payment is made each month that is applied to the delinquent amount. Once the delinquent amount is paid in full, the normal payment amount resumes.
--Extension Agreement: This is an agreement in which you pay a portion of the amount of your delinquency, and the remaining portion of the delinquent amount is added on the end of your loan.
--Loan Modification: This is a written agreement between you and the lender that permanently changes one or more terms of your mortgage. For example, the agreement could increase or decrease your 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.

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DOMESTIC RELATIONS MEDIATION

Referral of Cases  Mediation of Domestic Relations cases are coordinated through the Family Court Services Department. Mediations are conducted by the FCS staff as well as the staff of the Joint Court Mediation Program. Parties may also request mediation by a private mediator.

In newly filed divorce 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 a mediation session. The Court also refers many post-decree parenting cases to mediation.

Parents may also initiate mediation apart from a court order before or after their final hearing. In these situations it is up to both parties to contact Family Court Services before an appointment will be scheduled.

The Mediation Process  The parties begin the Mediation process after they have completed the Court Ordered New Beginning class. At that time each party will be asked to make an appointment to meet with the Mediator on an individual basis to discuss any questions or concerns about mediation. After both parties have attended the New Beginnings class and their initial mediation session, they will be asked to schedule an appointment for a joint mediation session.

During the mediation process, 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. This agreement may be filed with the Court if the parties wish to do so.

This memorandum is not a legal document until the Court and the parties sign it, therefore allowing the parties to alter their agreement berfore it becomes a legal document.

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COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL COURTS REGULAR DOCKET

Referral of Cases  Cases filed in the general division of the County and Municipal Courts of the County may be referred to mediation at a pre-trial conference or other hearing. 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. 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.

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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 Joint Court Mediation Program office to confirm that they will attend as ordered. The mediation session will be approximately 1 to 3 weeks prior to the hearing date. At the request of a complaining party, disputes may be referred to mediation and scheduled by the small claims clerks prior to the filing of a small claims complaint.

The Mediation Process  Mediation of small claims cases is coordinated through the Joint Court Mediation Program. Mediators are members of the JCMP staff and trained volunteers from the community.

Due to the nature of the 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.

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.

When an agreement as to the settlement of the case has been reached, that agreement is reduced to writing and signed by the parties. The agreement will then be filed with the court in which the complaint was filed.

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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). The mediator is an employee of the Ashtabula County Court system whose background and training focus on assisting families in developing cooperative ways to resolve disagreements. For mediation involving status offenses, delinquency and truancy, the Court also employs trained Family Intervention Specialists. These individuals have the responsibility of maintaining contact with the families for up to 90 days to provide support and assistance in maintaining the agreement reached in mediation.

Parenting  Although the judge or magistrate usually makes these referrals to the Joint Court Mediation Program, parents may also initiate mediation on their own. In these situations it is up to both parties to contact the mediation program before an appointment will be scheduled.

Parties typically attend mediation sessions together and without counsel, though separate meetings are at times advisable and will be arranged by the mediator. During the mediation process, 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. This agreement may be filed with the Court if the parties wish to do so.

Status Offenses and Delinquency  In cases in which juveniles have had an initial complaint filed regarding their behavior, the juveniles and their parents participate in a mediation session designed to provide an opportunity for the family to decide on how those matters might be resolved constructively.

In the session the mediator helps parent and child discuss their mutual concerns and develop an agreed plan to address the specific behavior in a way that is satisfactory to both parties. As in many other types of mediation the agreement is written by the mediator and signed by child and parent. If the matter has been referred through the Court, juveniles who follow through with mediated agreements can avoid further Court intervention, including a penalty or court record.

School Attendance  Concerns involving truancy are referred by school districts through a similar process to unruly behavior and delinquency complaints (above). The goal of mediation is to identify what can be done to make future court involvement unnecessary.

School personnel such as attendance officers or administrators often participate in the mediation session to assist the family in identifying specific steps child and parent might take toward consistent school attendance. The mediator prepares an agreement that details what all parties agree will be helpful in achieving that goal. The family members sign the agreement and keep a copy so everyone is clear on how progress will be made toward improvement.

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OTHER NON-COURT RELATED MEDIATION

In many cases, disputes that have not been filed with the courts in Ashtabula County may be referred to the Joint Court Mediation Program. Examples of these may be estate matters, family and neighbor disputes, disputes between governmental entities and business disputes. The procedure for handling these disputes is on a case by case basis. Please feel free to contact the Joint Court Mediation Program with any questions you may have.

Future mediation developments under consideration for Ashtabula County include:

*** disputes involving township trustees: although a few such matters have been referred to mediation through the court and the prosecutor’s office, trustees also have the opportunity to make direct contact with JCMP for information or to schedule sessions;

*** encouraging peer mediation in local schools: training students to manage conflict and resolve disputes is a growing effort in Ashtabula County and one that the local bar association has fostered together with JCMP;

*** promoting referrals from local law enforcement: disputes that involve neighbors can often be addressed effectively in mediation before they escalate to the level where criminal charges may be filed;

Outreach to individuals and organizations within the county (chambers of commerce, civic and volunteer groups, school and church associations) can continue this development while allowing the primary focus to remain a court-affiliated effort.

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