When it comes to family law matters, mediation has become a more and more popular choice for many. This alternative dispute resolution (ADR) allows for parties to reach an agreement on their family law case in North Carolina. Claims that involve sensitive issues such as child custody, property, and finances are often resolved and settled through mediation. Mediation is the most common form of ADR.Pre-Trial Mediation
Across the state of North Carolina, pre-trial mediation has become a mandatory process for all cases that have a pending child custody or equitable distribution claim. One advantage of mediating your matter is that cases that settle during mediation are often less expensive, less stressful, and quicker for all parties involved than proceeding with litigation. Another is that negotiations and discussions at mediation are confidential. In fact, sometimes parties are able to come to an agreement that may not have been an option from the presiding court. Finally, mediation allows the parties involved to be active participants and mutually negotiate the terms of the agreement instead of putting the fate of their case in the hands of a judge. That being said, mediation does not result in a successful outcome for every case. Sometimes, the only way to come to a fair resolution is through litigation.Mediation Facts
There are many facts about mediation that you may not know. In mediation, the parties employ or hire a certified private mediator who serves as the facilitator for communications and negotiations on the matter. Alternatively, the mediator may be appointed by the court. In either scenario, the parties each pay one-half of the mediator’s fees at the conclusion of the mediation, whether or not the matter was successfully resolved. The mediator is a neutral party who remains neutral throughout the process and whose purpose is to help the parties come to a resolution, when possible. Mediation includes one meeting or a series of meetings between the parties, their respective attorneys, and the mediator.
In North Carolina, couples are required to attend mediation after a lawsuit has been filed and before a child custody trial and equitable distribution trial is held. A North Carolina judge may waive the mediation requirement only in limited circumstances and for good cause shown. In most judicial districts in the state, the presiding judge will not schedule the issues in dispute for a trial date until after the parties have participated in mediation.
Under North Carolina law, mediation is available for a number of different family law issues including, but not limited to visitation, child custody, and equitable distribution. While the mediator is tasked in helping the parties reach an agreement, it is an attorney for one of the parties who drafts the final settlement agreement or consent order. The mediator is often an attorney or a former judge who has undergone specialized training. In order to serve as a mediator, the person must receive a significant amount of training and must be certified by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission. A mediator does not decide how the case should be resolved, but rather gives the parties an opportunity to come to an agreement on their differences.Benefits of Mediation
Some of the benefits of mediation include:
- Giving the parties involved direct control over the outcome of their case and the terms of their agreement;
- Allows the parties to be flexible and creative in their problem-solving to come to an agreement on the issues;
- Mediated settlements are less expensive than trial and are less time consuming for all involved;
- Mediation is less stressful than going to court, in part because it is less formal than trial;
- Mediation may be scheduled at a date, time, and place that is convenient for all parties as opposed to being at the mercy of the court;
- Mediation can provide an alternative venue to settle disputes confidentially and privately.
At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our experienced family law attorneys in Weddington and throughout Union County can advise and guide you through the mediation process in your family law matter. Our attorneys are experienced in the North Carolina mediation process and can help you reach a resolution without the need to step into a courtroom. Our skilled attorneys are trained to help you understand your specific situation and the legal benefits and risks of pursuing litigation. Should a settlement be reached, our attorneys will help draft or review the Separation Agreement and Property Settlement - the legally binding document memorializing your agreement - on your behalf. Contact us today to learn how we can represent you throughout this process.