§ 8.01-581.21. Definitions.
As used in this chapter:
“Mediation” means a process in which a mediator facilitates communication between the parties and, without deciding the issues or imposing a solution on the parties, enables them to understand and to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to their dispute.
“Mediation program” means a program through which mediators or mediation is made available and includes the director, agents and employees of the program.
“Mediator” means an impartial third party selected by agreement of the parties to a controversy to assist them in mediation. (1988, cc. 623, 857; 2002, c. 718.)
§ 8.01-581.22. Confidentiality; exceptions.
All memoranda, work products and other materials contained in the case files of a mediator or mediation program are confidential. Any communication made in or in connection with the mediation, which relates to the controversy being mediated, including screening, intake, and scheduling a mediation, whether made to the mediator, mediation program staff, to a party, or to any other person, is confidential. However, a written mediated agreement signed by the parties shall not be confidential, unless the parties otherwise agree in writing.
Confidential materials and communications are not subject to disclosure in discovery or in any judicial or administrative proceeding except (i) where all parties to the mediation agree, in writing, to waive the confidentiality, (ii) in a subsequent action between the mediator or mediation program and a party to the mediation for damages arising out of the mediation, (iii) statements, memoranda, materials and other tangible evidence, otherwise subject to discovery, which were not prepared specifically for use in and actually used in the mediation, (iv) where a threat to inflict bodily injury is made, (v) where communications are intentionally used to plan, attempt to commit, or commit a crime or conceal an ongoing crime, (vi) where an ethics complaint is made against the mediator by a party to the mediation to the extent necessary for the complainant to prove misconduct and the mediator to defend against such complaint, (vii) where communications are sought or offered to prove or disprove a claim or complaint of misconduct or malpractice filed against a party’s legal representative based on conduct occurring during a mediation, (viii) where communications are sought or offered to prove or disprove any of the grounds listed in § 8.01-581.26 in a proceeding to vacate a mediated agreement, or (ix) as provided by law or rule. The use of attorney work product in a mediation shall not result in a waiver of the attorney work product privilege. (1988, cc. 623, 857; 2002, c. 718; 2013, cc. 283, 383.)
§ 8.01-581.23. Civil immunity.
When a mediation is provided by a mediator who is certified pursuant to guidelines promulgated by the Judicial Council of Virginia, or who is trained and serves as a mediator through the statewide mediation program established pursuant to § 2.2-1202.1, then that mediator, mediation programs for which that mediator is providing services, and a mediator co-mediating with that mediator shall be immune from civil liability for, or resulting from, any act or omission done or made while engaged in efforts to assist or conduct a mediation, unless the act or omission was made or done in bad faith, with malicious intent or in a manner exhibiting a willful, wanton disregard of the rights, safety or property of another. This language is not intended to abrogate any other immunity that may be applicable to a mediator. (1988, cc. 623, 857; 2002, c. 718.; 2012, cc. 803, 835)
§ 8.01-581.24. Standards and duties of mediators; confidentiality; liability.
A mediator selected to conduct a mediation under this chapter may encourage and assist the parties in reaching a resolution of their dispute, but may not compel or coerce the parties into entering into a settlement agreement. A mediator has an obligation to remain impartial and free from conflicts of interest in each case, and to decline to participate further in a case should such partiality or conflict arise. Unless expressly authorized by the disclosing party, the mediator may not disclose to either party information relating to the subject matter of the mediation provided to him in confidence by the other. A mediator shall not disclose information exchanged or observations regarding the conduct and demeanor of the parties and their counsel during the mediation, unless the parties otherwise agree.
However, where the dispute involves the support of minor children of the parties, the parties shall disclose to each other and to the mediator the information to be used in completing the child support guidelines worksheet required by § 20-108.2. The guidelines computations and any reasons for deviation shall be incorporated in any written agreement by the parties. (2002, c. 718.)
§ 8.01-581.25. Effect of written settlement agreement.
If the parties reach a settlement and execute a written agreement disposing of the dispute, the agreement is enforceable in the same manner as any other written contract. If the mediation involves a case that is filed in court, upon request of all parties and consistent with law and public policy, the court shall incorporate the written agreement into the terms of its final decree disposing of a case. In cases in which the dispute involves support for the minor children of the parties, an order incorporating a written agreement shall also include the child support guidelines worksheet and, if applicable, the written reasons for any deviation from the guidelines. The child support guidelines worksheet shall be attached to the order. (2002, c. 718.)
§ 8.01-581.26. Vacating orders and agreements.
Upon the filing of an independent action by a party, the court shall vacate a mediated agreement reached in a mediation pursuant to this chapter, or vacate an order incorporating or resulting from such agreement, where:
1. The agreement was procured by fraud or duress, or is unconscionable;
2. If property or financial matters in domestic relations cases involving divorce, property, support or the welfare of a child are in dispute, the parties failed to provide substantial full disclosure of all relevant property and financial information; or
3. There was evident partiality or misconduct by the mediator, prejudicing the rights of any party.
For purposes of this section, “misconduct” includes failure of the mediator to inform the parties at the commencement of the mediation process that: (i) the mediator does not provide legal advice, (ii) any mediated agreement may affect the legal rights of the parties, (iii) each party to the mediation has the opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel at any time and is encouraged to do so, and (iv) each party to the mediation should have any draft agreement reviewed by independent counsel prior to signing the agreement. (2002, c. 718.)