Many courts throughout America encourage or even require mediation for many types of cases, including divorce. In North Carolina, divorcing spouses must try mediation before they may litigate their disputes.
While the law requires mediation of equitable division issues, the couple may choose to include other topics, such as visitation, custody and spousal support. In many cases, mediating at least part of the case can deliver benefits such as reduction in stress and costs.
Who chooses the mediator
The divorcing parties can select their own mediator, who does not have to be certified. If they cannot agree on whom to choose, the court may appoint a mediator. Generally, it is best to look for a mediator with a good understanding of family law and related topics.
How the process works
In mediation, the divorcing couple must focus on coming up with workable solutions and compromises. The mediator helps direct the negotiations and can facilitate communication by deescalating potential conflicts. Divorce often generates a lot of hostile emotion, which can make it difficult for many spouses to work out an agreement on their own. However, the mediator has no legal authority to order either of the parties to agree to anything.
Many people find that negotiating a settlement through mediation can cause less stress and expense than a court battle. They also feel more control over the outcome, since they set forth the terms of any agreement.
When mediation does not work out
Not every couple can resolve all issues through mediation. Sometimes, it becomes clear that proceeding further with mediation will only waste everyone's time. In the case of required mediation, the mediator will inform the court that proceedings have reached an impasse. If you feel mediation will not be in your best interest, you must ask the judge to allow you to proceed to litigation. In some cases, you may be able to convince the judge that mediation will hurt your case and you should be excused from the requirement.
Even though mediation is less formal than going to court, you should have an attorney at your side through it. The mediator cannot answer legal questions or provide advice. Your attorney can also help with concerns you have about the effectiveness of the process.