In North Carolina, the courts look favorably upon people trying to resolve disputes amongst themselves. They encourage settlement of all legal issues, where possible, and people are generally more satisfied with a negotiated resolution than one handed down by a judge.
One of the most effective ways to resolve your divorce-related issues is mediation. In mediation, a neutral third-party helps the divorcing spouses communicate effectively and develop their own resolution to the issues, which include:
- Equitably dividing marital properties and debts
- Child custody arrangements
- Child support arrangements
- Spousal support (“alimony”) arrangements, if any
In many cases, the courts actually require mediation. For example, most North Carolina child custody disputes are referred for mediation services.
It may seem like the courts are trying to compel you to try mediation, which can feel off-putting. Yet mediation isn’t just good for the courts’ financial ledgers. It has many benefits for divorcing couples, as well. Here are five big benefits of attempting mediation:
- It’s typically much cheaper than going to court. The mediation process doesn’t even have to involve lawyers, and the overall cost is low.
- It’s more flexible to schedule. Having a judge decide your divorce issues can take weeks or months to schedule. You’ll be assigned a court date when one is available and you’ll be expected to make time for that date, no matter what else you have going on. Mediation is simple to schedule and takes your scheduling needs into account.
- It usually takes less time. Taking your case to court could mean a trial that lasts days. Each disputed item will have to be prepared for that trial, which means each side presenting a desired outcome to the judge and the judge picking a winning side. Mediation takes a day or two, in most cases. There is often a snowball effect of agreement on small points leading to agreement on larger ones.
- Mediation protects your privacy. Especially if you’re prominent in the community, there could be public interest in your divorce and the personal details. Trials are part of the public record, and every detail and argument could potentially become public. Mediation is private and confidential.
- Mediation usually provides a better overall outcome. Because you and your divorcing spouse are the ones who come up with the resolution, both sides are more likely to stick with that resolution. Research shows this to be true. For example, according to one study, mediation resulted more often in both parents remaining involved in their kids’ lives, based on 12 years of follow-up.
One final thing to understand about mediation is that you can always go to court if the mediation doesn’t work out. The confidentiality agreement you sign at the beginning of a mediation means that what you discuss during the mediation process can’t be used against you as evidence later. If mediation doesn’t work for you, you still have the right to head over to the courthouse for a trial.
Mediation may not be for everyone
If you have serious issues with your divorcing spouse that involve trust, you may not be able to negotiate effectively. You may not be able to trust that your ex will keep to the agreement you reach. Likewise, if your ex has abused you, emotionally or physically, it may be difficult or even impossible to negotiate effectively. If you have concerns like these, be sure to talk to your lawyer about them.
A mediated divorce may allow you to get on with your life in a simpler, less adversarial way. It can promote agreement and problem-solving. It might even be a useful tool for resolving future disputes.
If you’re considering divorce, be sure to work with a compassionate divorce lawyer who will go the extra mile for you.