NC: Mediation


In North Carolina, some type of alternative dispute resolution is required in almost all custody cases and all equitable distribution cases before the court will set a final hearing date. The most common kind of alternative dispute resolution is mediation.  Even without a court requirement, it is also common for the parties to attempt to resolve their issues with the assistance of their attorneys and a trained mediator, and to walk out of a mediation with a signed agreement that resolves all the issues between the parties. Whether the parties are ordered to mediation or agree to voluntarily attend mediation, their attorneys work together to agree upon who they will use as their trained mediator and to schedule a mutually agreeable mediation date. If you do not have an attorney, the court will appoint a mediator to handle the case and order the parties to attend.

Prior to mediation, the mediator will gather basic information about the issues in the case so that he or she is informed. At mediation, the mediator works as a neutral third party to negotiate the conflicts on all issues between the parties. The mediator’s job is to settle the case – and he or she should work hard to do just that. A successful resolution at mediation requires a compromise from both sides, but when two parties are willing to work together to resolve their issues outside of the courtroom, it is highly likely that both parties will walk away feeling like they negotiated a livable resolution for everyone involved.

Parties may lose control in a courtroom.  A judge is forced to follow the law and the rules of evidence.  Sometimes, it is very hard to tell the story of your marriage within those parameters. Mediation gives you a chance to work out something that is relevant to your family.   You will prepare for mediation much the same as you will prepare for court.  It is important to have all the relevant facts sorted out.  However, mediation also allows parties to forgo the use of court forms and the requirements of the courts’ rules of evidence, which means it can cost less than court.  That is important when you are trying to preserve as much of the marital estate as possible.