Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Harvey Joanning


Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce prior to the seventh year of marriage (Bee, 1994; National Center for Health Statistics, 1991). As a result many young children live with one parent. The U.S. Census Bureau (1998) estimates this effects 19.8 million children. Children living in single-headed households are more likely to suffer social, emotional, economic, educational, health and psychological problems (Chase-Lansdale, & Heatherington, 1990; Emery, 1988). Parents also experience difficulties adjusting to the end of a relationship. Amato (1993) believes this transition phase of divorce lasts between 2 to 5 years. Family law/divorce mediation was created to lessen the negative effects of divorce (or the end of a relationship) on parents and their children. In Polk County, Iowa, family law judges began mandating mediation as of January 1, 2000. There were 399 family law cases mediated between February 2000 and January 31, 2001. Of this 798 surveys were provided to participants, 217 surveys were returned. Of the survey respondents, 6 ex-couples and their mediator offered their experiences of family law mediation in Polk County. Eighteen in-depth interviews were conducted to gain a better understanding of how mediators, judges/courts, and attorneys could improve services offered to participants. The findings indicated that a large percentage of participants reported that they would recommend mediation to others, felt mediation was fair, that they were satisfied with and benefited from mediation, and that their mediator did not take sides. All mediations involved custody and visitation issues and other family law issues. Some cases (domestic violence) entering mediation needed to be screened more effectively and waived as the outcomes are typically not favorable. Finally, participants brought up issues concerning when attorneys were to be involved in mediation and how well they felt they prepared them for mediation.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Jill Roxanne Sudak-Allison



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

186 pages