Alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation can help resolve issues that a family court judge would otherwise handle. Mediation focuses on promoting communication between spouses, rather than adversarial battles. Parties to a mediation may find that they can overcome their differences and reach an amicable resolution.
What Is Mediation?
For many people, going to court and facing tough questions during an emotionally difficult time such as divorce or separation can be extremely difficult. Moreover, sometimes spouses wish to reach a resolution to their differences without a lot of time or expense. Mediation is a great option for people in these situations.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method. A mediator, who is a neutral person like a retired judge or experienced lawyer, sits down with both spouses to discuss their situation. The mediator seeks to promote communication and lay out all the relevant information. Then the mediator helps the parties exchange potential ways to resolve their conflict. If the parties come to a resolution, then a settlement agreement will be prepared.
Mediation is much less formal than court or an arbitration. Typically the parties sit down in two conference rooms on an agreed-upon date, and the mediator moves between the two rooms. While the parties can use documents to support their positions, there is no formal presentation of evidence. The entire process could happen in one day. As a result, mediation can be substantially less expensive than court or arbitration.
When Can You Use Mediation?
Spouses can use mediation for any or all issues they have during the separation or divorce process. These issues may include property division, spousal support, and child custody. They must agree which issues to submit to mediation (except child custody, see below). If not all issues are resolved in mediation, the remaining issues will be decided by the court or an arbitrator. Further, if the spouses cannot resolve an issue using mediation, one spouse may choose to end the mediation and go back to court.
Notably, North Carolina law requires mediation for all child custody and visitation issues (unless the court waives it). There is a special program to divert spouses with child custody and visitation issues to mediation before a court hearing takes place.
Getting Started with Mediation
You can include a provision requiring mediation of disputes in your prenuptial, postnuptial, separation, or settlement agreement. You also can agree to mediation at a different time, such as during the family court process for divorce. Have your lawyer include the proper provisions in any agreement that requires you and your spouse to attend mediation. You and your spouse will need to sign the agreement to indicate that you both want to mediate should a dispute arise. Getting an agreement to attend mediation in writing long before you have a dispute can help you attain a faster, more amicable, and less expensive result.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you would like to use mediation to resolve a family law dispute, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.