Trial can be an exhausting, time consuming, and stress inducing experience. You may find yourself on the witness stand, answering the most embarrassing and deeply personal questions imaginable. And when other witnesses testify, you have no choice but to sit quietly while all of your alleged mistakes are put on show. Trial is also incredibly expensive — lawyers have to do many hours of additional work to prepare for trial and spend days in a courtroom exclusively for your case. For these reasons and others, it is standard practice for courts in North Carolina to order the parties to mediation regarding issues related to child custody and property division prior to trial.
I’ve Been Ordered to Mediation. What Do I Need to Know?
Mediation is a conference between all of the parties in a case and a third party mediator. This impartial mediator can be chosen by the court or agreed to by the parties. Mediation is informal and involves sitting down with the mediator to explain what you want. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties and attempt to find common ground. The ultimate goal is for everyone to meet somewhere in the middle and come to a written agreement that resolves the case. In order to be successful, each party must be willing to give up some things in an effort to reach a settlement on which both parties can agree.
What Do I Need to Do to Prepare?
- Your attorney should meet with you prior to the mediation. to prepare and to discuss strategy. Be prepared with any questions and any updates for your attorney beforehand. Attorneys have a duty to keep their clients informed.
- Inform your attorney of what you are willing to agree to, and what positions you will not agree to. It is important to have a reasonable explanation for your positions. Your attorney can talk you through your desired outcomes and whether they are realistic. However, it is ultimately your decision on whether or not you accept the proposed settlement.
- Ask for a full day off from work. Also, make any childcare or after school arrangements for the children. Mediation can last anywhere from half an hour to a full day. The timing really depends on whether the parties arrive with the intent to negotiate, and how far apart the sides are. If it is clear that neither side wants to negotiate, a mediator might end the mediation instead of wasting everyone’s time.
- Arrive at mediation with an open mind. The idea behind mediation is to negotiate an agreement that everyone can live with. Especially if child custody is involved, a harmonious agreement is much better for the children than an unpredictable court order that neither parent wanted. And again, trial can be incredibly expensive and you may not get your desired outcome. The mediation process provides you some measure of control of the outcome.
If you are preparing for a divorce or child custody dispute, contact us. For more than a decade, New Direction Family Law has provided legal advocacy for clients getting divorced or fighting for their children. Our team has built a reputation as tough, competent, and ethical professionals who work tirelessly for our clients. Call us today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us at our website.