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Fourth Judicial District Court

Tribunal del Cuarto Distrito Judicial

The Fourth Judicial District Court contracts with SR Solutions to provide court-ordered mediation for parties who are unable to agree on a parenting plan for custody and/or visitation for their children. 

SR Solutions also provides Priority and Advisory Consultation assessments for custody and visitation issues in the district.


Mediation

Mediation as a first step in the court process allows parents the opportunity to make their own decisions about their children, and helps parents focus on and communicate about the needs of their children as the parents begin their lives apart.  Mediation provides opposing parties the opportunity to meet with a neutral third party for discussion and decision making regarding future plans for children.  It is a confidential process, which allows parties to freely discuss issues they believe important as they plan for the future.  Parties and the mediator may not disclose to the Court information that was obtained during mediation sessions.  The only exceptions to this confidentiality are suspected child abuse or threats to harm oneself and/or another individual.

The mediation process begins upon receipt of an Order for Mediation.  This court order will contain information regarding the Information Session both parties must attend prior to participating in mediation.  Information Sessions are conducted twice each month at 12:00 p.m. (noon) at the San Miguel County District Courthouse, 496 West National, Las Vegas, New Mexico.  This one hour session provides parents with a general introduction to the mediation process in the Fourth Judicial District, emphasizes the impact of parental conflict on children whose parents live apart, explains joint legal custody, provides parents with co-parenting guidelines, and gives parents a framework for the development of a comprehensive parenting plan for their children.

If parties are able to reach their own agreement regarding custody and visitation following their participation in the Information Session, they may file their agreement with the Court.  When parties provide SR Solutions with a signed notarized copy of such an agreement, SR Solutions prepares a Case Disposition which informs the Court that mediation is not necessary.  When parties remain unable to reach agreement, SR Solutions schedules mediation sessions, usually within two weeks of their attendance at the Information Session.

Mediation is an efficient process, with most sessions lasting 1 ½ hours.  In most cases, parties can reach an agreement within 2 – 4 sessions.  Mediation sessions are conducted with both parties present; unless one party establishes a basis for separate sessions (this process is called Shuttle Mediation).  Each party pays a fee for mediation, which is based upon an approved sliding fee schedule.

When parties reach an agreement through mediation, the mediator prepares a DRAFT document which is given to each party.  Parties are given time to review the draft document and to consult with counsel.  After both parties approve the draft, final copies are prepared for parties to sign.  Once both parties have signed the agreement, SR Solutions submits the document to the Court.

Should parties be unable to reach an agreement, SR Solutions complies with the Court Order for Mediation, which specifies either a return of the matter to Court or initiation of the Priority Consultation process.  A Case Disposition is prepared and sent to the Court and each party or counsel of record.


Priority Consultation

When parties are unable to agree to a plan for their children through the mediation process, or when the Court orders that an immediate plan is necessary, SR Solutions will arrange for a Priority Consultation as soon as possible and usually within three weeks.  There is a charge for this service, based upon an approved sliding fee schedule.  Parties are expected to pay the full fee at the time of their interview.

During the Priority Consultation process, the parties are assigned a Priority Consultant, who will interview each parent/party separately.  Parties are notified of their appointments and their fees by letter.  Following interviews with the parents, the Consultant may also request an interview with the children.  The Consultant may ask each parent to sign releases of information to allow for communication with any relevant service providers for the family, including schools, counselors, and health care providers.  Interviews with each parent can last up to four hours.  Information gathered during the consultation process is condensed into a report which includes background and current information for each party, issues and concerns raised by each parent, a profile of each child in the case, an assessment of the parties and their children, and the Consultant’s recommendations regarding custody and visitation.  The recommendations may include referrals for counseling, drug and/or alcohol assessment, anger management, or other family services.  Depending upon the complexity of each case, Priority Consultations may take from one to three months to complete

The written Priority Consultation Report with Recommendations is then sent to the presiding judge and counsel for each party (or to parties pro se).  Once the report and recommendations are submitted to the Court, parties will receive a completed Notice of Filing, which informs them of the review period and the deadline for filing objections to the recommendations.  If no objections are filed within this timeframe, the recommendations may be adopted by the Court.  When objections are filed, a hearing is held to determine final custody and visitation based upon the recommendations and issues raised in the hearing.


Advisory Consultation

In certain cases, there may be a need for a more in-depth evaluation of the issues before recommendations regarding custody and visitation can be made.  The Advisory Consultation process is conducted by an Advisory Consultant for the purpose of exploring these issues in greater detail.  The Advisory Consultation may be recommended following a Priority Consultation, may be stipulated to by the parties, or may be directly ordered by the Court.  There is a charge for this service, based upon an approved sliding fee schedule.  Parties are expected to pay the full fee at the time of their first interview with the Advisory Consultant, and parties are responsible for any costs associated with further testing required during the process (drug screening, psychological evaluations, parenting evaluations, etc.) by any service provider.

During the Advisory Consultation process, the parties are assigned an Advisory Consultant, who will begin the process with individual interviews of each parent/party.  Parties are notified of their appointments and their fees by letter.  Following interviews with the parents, the Consultant will interview the children, any other persons living in the respective homes, and may arrange for home visits.  Parents are required to sign releases of information so the Consultant can obtain information from schools, physicians, counselors, and any relevant service providers for the family.  Police and DMV reports will be requested.  One or both of the parents may be required to submit to alcohol, drug, or mental health assessments.  The children may be required to undergo professional evaluations, including psychological testing.  Parents may be asked to meet with the Advisory Consultant more than once during the process.  Information gathered during the consultation process is condensed into a report which includes background and current information for each party, issues and concerns raised by each parent, a profile of each child in the case, an assessment of the parties and their children, and the Consultant’s recommendations regarding custody and visitation.  The recommendations may include referrals for counseling, drug and/or alcohol assessment, anger management, or other family services.  Depending upon the complexity of each case, Advisory Consultations may take three to six months to complete.

The written Advisory Consultation Report with Recommendations is then sent to the presiding judge and counsel for each party (or to parties pro se).  Once the report and recommendations are submitted to the Court, parties will receive a completed Notice of Filing, which informs them of the review period and the deadline for filing objections to the recommendations.  If no objections are filed within this timeframe, the recommendations may be adopted by the Court.  When objections are filed, a hearing is held to determine final custody and visitation based upon the recommendations and issues raised in the hearing.