(a) For purposes of this section, “mediation” means a process in which a neutral third party assists the parties to a civil action in reaching their own settlement but does not have the authority to force the parties to accept a binding decision.
(b) Mediation is mandatory for all parties in the following instances:
(1) At any time where all parties agree.
(2) Upon motion by any party. The party asking for mediation shall pay the costs of mediation, except attorney fees, unless otherwise agreed.
(3) In the event no party requests mediation, the trial court may, on its own motion, order mediation. The trial court may allocate the costs of mediation, except attorney fees, among the parties.
(c) If any party fails to mediate as required by this section, the court may apply such sanctions as it deems appropriate pursuant to Rule 37 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure .
(d) A court shall not order parties into mediation for resolution of the issues in a petition for an order for protection pursuant to The Protection from Abuse Act, Sections 30-5-1 through 30-5-10 or in any other petition for an order for protection where domestic violence is alleged.
(e) In a proceeding concerning the custody or visitation of a child, if an order for protection is in effect or if the court finds that domestic violence has occurred, the court shall not order mediation.
(f) A mediator who receives a referral or order from a court to conduct mediation shall screen for the occurrence of domestic or family violence between the parties. Where evidence of domestic violence exists mediation shall occur only if:
(1) Mediation is requested by the victim of the alleged domestic or family violence;
(2) Mediation is provided by a certified mediator who is trained in domestic and family violence in a specialized manner that protects the safety of the victim; and
(3) The victim is permitted to have in attendance at mediation a supporting person of his or her choice, including, but not limited to, an attorney or advocate.
(g) Where a claim of immunity is offered as a defense, the court shall dispose of the immunity issue before any mediation is conducted.
(h) A court shall not order parties into mediation in any action involving child support, adult protective services, or child protective services wherein the Department of Human Resources is a party to said action.
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