Mediation is a way for parents to discuss and develop a parenting plan that accommodates them but is also best for their child or children. The mediator’s job is to facilitate their discussion. Attorneys may or may not be present. See the Agreement to Mediation for more information.


The Arkansas Access and Visitation Mediation Program was created in 1997 as a result of funding provided by a federal grant. The purpose of this statewide program is to support and facilitate non-custodial parents’ access to and visitation with their children. Participants pay on a sliding scale. Qualification is determined by the issues to be mediated not by income.

What is Access and Visitation Mediation?

Separation and divorce mean significant changes for everyone. These changes involve creating situations which require that difficult decisions be made. Traditionally, parents have relied on the courts to resolve family issues during this time. However, a potential courtroom battle increases stress on every member of the family, particularly the children. Simultaneously, parents may feel a loss of control over very personal aspects of their lives.

Mediation is another way to work through the problems and address the core issues brought forth by separation and divorce. The mediator is a trained professional who facilitates a difficult, confidential discussion between the parents, helping the parents listen to one another and be open with one another. The mediator has no authority to make decisions for the parents. The goal of mediation is for parents to create a parenting plan allowing both to have a continuing relationship with the children. The focus of the agreement is on the children’s needs and the rights and responsibilities of both parents.

Why is Mediation Helpful?

  • Parents remain in control.
  • Parents working cooperatively make decisions based on what is best for the children.
  • Stress and anxiety are reduced, because parents to not have to go to court.
  • Parents who invest their time and energy creating a parenting plan for their children are more likely to respect and honor the plan.
  • Parents avoid the high costs of litigation.

What is the Mediator’s Role?

  • To facilitate a discussion.
  • To encouraged the parties to discuss their needs and hopes for the future.
  • To ensure that the focus during mediation is on the future.
  • To help the parents understand that mediation cannot change the past or erase the hurt that may already exist, but it can help design a plan for present custody and future access and visitation.
  •  To be a neutral party who does not make decisions for the parents. The mediator encourages cooperation and fairness. She also assists parents in reaching an understanding of the visitation problems, listing possible solutions, evaluating choices, and putting the plan in writing.

What is the cost to participants within the Access and Visitation Mediation Program?

The Access and Visitation Mediation Program is a federally-funded program designed to mediate only those issues of Access, Custody and Visitation. The cost of the mediation is assigned to each party on a sliding scale which makes the process affordable.

How does the Program Work?

  • The Court, on its own or on the motion of the attorneys, may order the parents to mediate the issues in the case. Parents who have not filed a lawsuit may also asked to mediate without going to Court or hiring attorneys. Either the parents or the attorneys must contact the Director of the Arkansas Access and Visitation Mediation Program and provide the required paperwork.
  • A mediator from the Access and Visitation Mediation Roster is selected by either the parents, the attorneys or the Director of the Mediation Program.
  • The Director contacts the chosen mediator directly for availability and formally assigns the case.
  • The mediator, in turn, contacts the attorneys and/or the parents to set up the mediation.

What to expect

In most cases, Carol will meet with the parents and their attorneys, if present, to review the Agreement to Mediate. While attorneys may be present at the mediation, it is not required. Subsequently, Carol will help the parties identify issues that need to be resolved and help them go about having an open discussion with the goal of developing a parenting plan. Often Carol will ask that the parents enter into “caucuses.” This means that the parents go into different rooms to discuss issues privately with Carol. This may be necessary when the parents reach an impasse or need to discuss things that they do not necessary want the other parent to know. Hopefully, the parents will address all the issues they identified or, at least, most of them. Subsequently, Carol will draft a Memorandum of Understanding for the parties to sign. The parents are encouraged to seek counsel from their lawyers prior to signing. After the agreement is signed, it must be submitted to the court for approval. Once approved by the court, the parenting plan will become an enforceable order of the court. If parents are unable to reach agreement through mediation, they are still free to return to court. Mediation is a voluntary process. The discussions in mediation are confidential and are not revealed by the mediator to any other persons, including the judge.

Is Mediation Ever Inappropriate?

Mediation may not be appropriate for families with substance abuse, alcoholism, spousal or child abuse. When these behaviors are present, the decision to mediate is made on a case by case basis.

Referral Process

Judges may order divorcing parents into mediation according to Ark. Code Ann. § 9-12-322 (a)(2) or § 16-7-202.