Mediation is a proven method of alternative dispute resolution that North Carolina courts have come to rely on. In fact, courts will often order child custody mediation and financial mediation before allowing those issues to go to trial. But how does mediation work? And why should you believe mediation will work for you? At the Eatmon Law Firm, PC, in Wake Forest, I emphasize mediation as a voluntary, cooperative process to resolve even the most contentious divorce and family law issues. To get you started, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive.
Many clients come into my office in distress, not only because their marriage has ended, but because they dread going to court and having to “tell all” to the judge. Knowing they have the option of mediating their conflict often gives them immediate peace of mind. For answers to questions that are specific to your circumstances, please schedule a consultation.
If you are considering mediation for your divorce, a child custody dispute, or some other family law issue, the Eatmon Law Firm, PC is ready to help. Call me at 919-670-5566 or contact my office online to schedule a consultation. My Wake Forest office is located at 1788 Heritage Center Drive, and Saturday and evening appointments are available.
Mediation is a process of negotiation led by a neutral third party — the mediator — who attempts to guide the participants to a compromise solution that serves both their interests. The process is similar whether you are going through a simple, uncontested divorce or a complex divorce.
By litigation, we mean taking the case to trial before a judge. For that to happen, the court clerk has to squeeze your case onto the crowded court calendar, which could mean waiting for months. Then as your date for trial approaches, an emergency could come up and either party could request a continuance, so the trial could be put off for another couple of months. When you mediate your case, you are free to schedule sessions whenever you and your spouse are available. You can move forward at your own pace, which is generally quicker than the pace of the court.
Preparing for trial is an expensive proposition. Because the process is adversarial, the parties go through a process of discovery, where each side demands documentation and answers to long series of questions, known as interrogatories. Attorneys have to subpoena the documents, prepare your interrogatories, and review your answers to the other side’s interrogatories. If witnesses are necessary, the attorneys for both sides must depose them, and a court reporter must record their testimony. If expert testimony is necessary, each side hires their own expert, and each must be deposed. But when you mediate your divorce, the process relies on voluntary cooperation. Parties freely disclose information, so there is no need for subpoenas and interrogatories. If expert advice is needed, from a child psychologist or a financial advisor, the parties can hire one expert and split the cost.
Mediation is a voluntary process, so you are not compelled to reach an agreement. If you don’t like the way the talks are headed, you can assert your right to walk away. Because each party has a veto over a bad deal, they are motivated to reach an agreement they can both live with. However, if you litigate the case, you are placing control over the outcome in the hands of a judge, who could deliver an adverse ruling you would then have to live with.
Testifying in court is hard on children, especially when it seems their parents have been fighting and they are being asked to take sides. Mediation spares your children from having to appear in court. Mediation also dials down the stress for you, which makes your divorce easier on your children. Finally, since mediation is a cooperative process, it can help you and your spouse overcome sore feelings, making you both better able to co-parent in the future. The parenting plan you achieve through mediation is one you and your spouse have created, so both of you are invested in it and more likely to abide by it.
Mediation has proven effective for all divorce issues, including alimony, child custody, child support, and the division of marital property. It is also effective for post-divorce child custody and support disputes. The key to a mediated solution is not the issues, but the willingness of the parties to be reasonable with each other.
Although mediation works for the majority of couples, it is not appropriate for everyone. For mediation to work, each party must be free to express their thoughts and assert their rights. Couples who have a history of physical or emotional abuse are not good candidates for mediation.