Virginia's Judicial System

Parent Education Update

House Bill 1178, which was signed into law in 2000, mandates parent education in contested custody cases effective July 1, 2001. House Bill 1178 amends Virginia Code Sections 16.1-278.15 and 20-103 to state that, when the parties are parents of a child whose custody or visitation is contested, the court shall order the parties, at the time of the initial court appearance, to attend educational seminars on the effects of separation or divorce on children, parenting responsibilities, and options for conflict resolution.

The Parent Education Network (PEN) is the professional organization that is working with the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia to create a resource list of classes and assist in the implementation of the new law. Here's how you can help: (1) Ask the courts in your area to give you a list of parent educators they plan to use or determine if there are any gaps in availability; (2) Send this information to PEN President Ann Warshauer at 703-846-8604 (phone 846-8769) in order to compile the parent education resource list and identify areas needing assistance; (3) Consider becoming an active member of PEN. For more information regarding current programs and training opportunities, call Barbara Steinberg at 804-559-7090.

VAACR Undertakes National Study

Virginia's non-profit community mediation centers have been working together as a loose coalition for many years. This past December at their annual retreat (pictured below), the ten (10) Community Mediation Centers (listed on this page) decided to establish a more formal association. The Vision that lead to the creation of Virginia Association for Community Conflict Resolution (VACCR - rhymes with Quaker) is that Virginia's communities offer early and easy access to conflict resolution and mediation services and are able to transform conflict situations to prevent violence, restore relationships and promote strong harmonious communities.

VACCR, in its early stages of development, seeks to maximize the strengths and local relationships of the community mediation centers, to learn from successes and challenges of community mediation in other localities, to explore partnerships between centers, and to foster expansion of community mediation throughout the Commonwealth. Community mediation is one part of the conflict resolution community and VACCR hopes to forge positive, collaborative relationships with private providers, courts, other mediation organizations, and state and community leaders.

VACCR's first initiative is to conduct a national study about community mediation. Some of the questions to be considered for each state are: 1) How many community mediation centers are there and what are their primary activities? 2) Characterize the needs that community mediation addresses in your state. 3) Describe the types and levels of certification in your state. 4) What are the various statewide organizations, how are they organized, how are they financially supported, and what are their primary functions? The study is being conducted by University of Virginia's Institute for Environmental Negotiation. VACCR received a mini-grant from the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) to fund the study and share the results.

The study has received preliminary information from all the states having mediation programs. Ten states have been selected for in-depth surveys. The second phase of data collection should be completed by late March. Questions for the second phase concentrate on standards of practice, non-court related mediation programs and their goals, and funding of mediation with particular attention to community mediation programs. The study should be completed by mid-summer. Results will be shared with the Department of Dispute Resolution Services, Virginia Mediation Network, the Joint Bar Committee on ADR and NAFCM.

Submitted by Bob Glover, Executive Director, Dispute Settlement Center

NAFCM has also awarded mini-grants to Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center to provide community training workshops on community-oriented policing/community mediation and to the Conflict Resolution Center for a financial audit and to upgrade their mediation case management software.

This page last modified: March 13, 2001