Giving Mediation a Chance

In Child Custody, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Getting divorced in North Carolina is just one part of a big legal puzzle. Other pieces include property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Each piece can become a contentious, expensive, hard-fought legal battle that may ultimately end up in a contested trial. Before trial, however, courts order parties to attempt to settle their issues through alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation.

Mediation is an informal proceeding that involves all the parties to a lawsuit and an impartial mediator. At mediation, the parties meet at the same location, but are often separated into different rooms while the mediator speaks with each party and their attorney about their legal arguments, evidence, and desired relief. Over the course of the day, the mediator will continue to speak with each group in attempt to narrow the issues and find common ground. The goal is to end the day with a formal, written agreement that resolves some or all of the issues in the lawsuit. This agreement is legally binding. If no agreement is reached, the parties must proceed to trial.

Give Mediation a Chance

While it is natural to want your day in court, there are good reasons to give mediation a chance.

Mediation resolves your issues faster. Family courts in North Carolina are overworked. It is a growing problem that the number of legal cases filed every year continues to increase and that courts are unable to keep up with them. In addition, while increasing the number of courts across the state might help this problem, this is a relatively rare occurrence. The result is that courts take a long time to reach trial settings. Even after you wait months for your trial setting, you may be reset to a later date because of scheduling issues regarding other cases. In contrast, it is relatively easy to schedule mediation.

Mediation brings about certain, predictable resolution. You may believe that you deserve to “win” at trial; however, what you believe and what your attorney can actually prove with competent evidence may be entirely different. Further, judges can be unpredictable. A successful mediation will result in agreement that everyone can live with, which eliminates the uncertainty of a trial outcome. Further, trials can result in appeals, which take time and introduce further uncertainty into the outcome of your case. Mediated agreements, on the other hand, are considerably more difficult to challenge on appeal.

 Mediation saves money. Trials are expensive. This is because attorneys have a duty to thoroughly prepare for trial, to prepare witnesses, to request and respond to discovery, to research the legal issues, and to subpoena and pay expert witnesses. This does not even include the time spent in court on behalf of their clients. Successful mediations either narrow the issues—and therefore the time spent in trial—or eliminates the need for trial entirely. This money saved can go toward your children or toward your post-divorce expenses.

Contact a Family Law Attorney

Separations, divorces, property division, alimony, child custody, and child support are all complex pieces to a big puzzle. At New Direction Family Law we understand this and pride ourselves in taking comprehensive, yet nuanced approach to representing clients through all of their family law issues. If you need legal assistance, contact us. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to arrange a consultation, or visit us online at our website.