In North Carolina, most judicial districts require couples to attend mediation as part of the divorce process. Mediation allows couples to resolve disputes through a neutral third-party, the mediator. Mediators do not give legal advice. Instead, they facilitate negotiations and help the couple reach a fair settlement.
While every mediation is different, here are the basics of what to expect from your mediation session.
The Mediation Session
Custody mediation in North Carolina scheduled relatively quickly. Custody mediators are provided by the state and the parties appear without their attorneys. Only custody and visitation is discussed. If an agreement is reached and signed by the parties, the mediator presents the agreement to the judge for their signature. The agreement is then a court order.
Mediation for the division of property occurs later in the process. The parties have an opportunity to choose the mediator but are responsible for paying for the mediator’s service. At this mediation, the parties’ attorneys are also present.
The mediator will typically start by identifying the areas that both spouses agree on and homing in on the key disputes that need to be resolved. Each spouse will have the opportunity to express his or her assessment of the major issues, their positions on those issues and what they see as an ideal outcome. The mediator will then start the negotiation process. He will, if requested, recommend potential compromises and advise on what solutions are realistic and achievable. The decision however, belongs to the parties.
You should expect this process to take several hours. Especially contentious cases can take all day. Issues that cannot be resolved in mediation will be decided in court. We encourage clients to resolve as much as possible in mediation to avoid additional legal fees.
Documenting the Outcomes
Once an agreement is reached on some or all the issues, the mediator will document the outcomes in a written agreement that you will sign and have notarized. The attorneys or custody mediator provided by the state will prepare orders for the judge to sign.
If you need a mediator or an attorney to represent you in the mediation process, the lawyers at Perry, Bundy, Plyler and Long LLP can help. Give us a call at 704-289-2519 to learn about our mediation services or speak to one of our divorce attorneys.