Section 461-A:7

    461-A:7 Mediation of Cases Involving Children. –
I. The general purpose of this section is to:
(a) Manage conflict and decrease acrimony between parties in a dispute concerning parental rights and responsibilities for minor children.
(b) Promote the best interest of children.
(c) Improve the parties' satisfaction with the outcome of disputes concerning parental rights and responsibilities.
(d) Increase the parties' participation in making decisions for themselves and their children.
(e) Increase compliance with court orders.
(f) Reduce the number and frequency of cases returning to court.
(g) Improve court efficiency.
II. The mediator has no authority to make a decision or impose a settlement upon the parties. The mediator shall attempt to focus the attention of the parties upon their needs and interests rather than upon their positions. Any settlement is entirely voluntary. In the absence of settlement, the parties lose none of their rights to a resolution of their dispute through litigation.
III. In all cases involving disputed parental rights and responsibilities or grandparents' visitation rights, including requests for modification of prior orders, the court may order the parties to participate in mediation. If the parties are ordered to participate in mediation under this section, all issues relevant to their case, including but not limited to child support and issues relative to property settlement and alimony under RSA 458, shall also be mediated unless the court orders otherwise.
IV. Reasons the court may choose not to order mediation include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) A showing of undue hardship to a party.
(b) An agreement between the parties for alternate dispute resolution procedures.
(c) An allegation of abuse or neglect of the minor child.
(d) A finding of alcoholism or drug abuse, unless all parties agree to mediation.
(e) An allegation of serious psychological or emotional abuse.
(f) Lack of an available, suitable mediator within a reasonable time period.
V. The court shall not order mediation if there is a finding of domestic violence as defined in RSA 173-B:1, unless all parties agree to mediation.
VI. Either party may move to have the mediator replaced for good cause.
VII. Mediation proceedings shall be held in private, and all communications, oral or written, made during the proceedings, which relate to the issues being mediated, whether made by the mediator, or a party, or any other person present, shall be privileged and confidential and shall not be disclosed and shall not be admissible in court, except as provided in RSA 328-C:9.
VIII. Any mediated agreement reached by the parties on all or some of the disputed issues shall be reduced to writing, signed by each party, and filed with the court as soon as practicable.
IX. The parties shall participate at mediation in good faith. If the mediator determines that mediation is not helpful in resolving the dispute, the mediator shall report that fact to the court and return the matter to the court for adjudication of the underlying issues.
X. In the event both parties are indigent, the mediator shall be paid a set fee for his or her services. The amount of the fee shall be set annually by supreme court rule. The court may order each party to pay a proportional amount of said fee. The fee shall be paid from the mediation and arbitration fund established in RSA 490-E:4 and repaid by the parties in accordance with RSA 461-A:18, including fees for pre-suit marital mediation authorized pursuant to RSA 490-E:2, V. The supreme court shall determine by rule a percentage amount of the entry fee paid to each clerk of court for each petition in domestic relations cases to be deposited into the mediation and arbitration fund to be used to pay for mediation where both parties are indigent. At no time shall the percentage amount exceed 25 percent of the entry fee for each petition.
XI. The supreme court shall establish rules and take such action as necessary to effectuate the purpose of this section.

Source. 2005, 273:1. 2011, 224:69, eff. July 1, 2011.