In recent years, the Courts of Common Pleas throughout Ohio have experienced a large increase in petitions for civil stalking protection orders (CSPOs). In response, the Ohio Supreme Court launched a pilot mediation program for those cases in July 2017 in ten jurisdictions.
Mediation for these cases is voluntary, with referral generally at the full hearing. The counties differ as to who conducts the mediations, with some referring cases to independent mediators and some being mediated by a judge not associated with the case. For all cases, mediation is conducted in a shuttle format, with the petitioner and respondent in different rooms.
This evaluation examines mediation outcomes, agreement sustainability, agreement provisions, and the impact of referral to mediation on the probability of a full hearing being held. It also looks at the experience of the few participants who completed surveys. The agreement rate was 71%, although at least three agreements were not sustained. In the county for which full analysis could be done, mediation led to almost twice as many cases being settled before a full hearing. Most participants had a positive experience, with most saying that they were satisfied with their experience, felt they had input into the outcome and believed the mediator to be fair.
Additionally, three issues were identified. These included the referral of a few cases that were ineligible for mediation, three mediation participants indicating they did not understand the enforceability of their agreement, and a missed opportunity for agreements to address the underlying reasons for conflict.