Divorce and child custody mediation are required by North Carolina law. The good thing is, they are also usually a good idea. The best way to take advantage of mediation is to prepare in advance so you know what you want to negotiate toward.
A divorce trial is adversarial. On each issue, there is a winner and a loser. There is no middle-ground solution available, most of the time. Even when the parents want to compromise, the process itself can keep them from doing so.
Mediation, on the other hand, is cooperative. A neutral mediator is there to help you and your divorcing spouse identify your major issues and come up with your own resolution. The mediator isn’t a judge and will make no rulings. You and your ex will decide how to resolve your issues, which include:
- Division of your marital property and debt
- Child custody and parenting arrangements
- Child support (although this is decided mostly by formula)
- Alimony, if any
The mediator is there to help you communicate effectively and stay on task. They can brainstorm ideas, reality check you and any prevent name calling. They can work with you to build your own resolution and craft the agreement that will work best for everyone involved.
If you are able to reach a resolution on some or all of your issues, the mediator will draw up an agreement for you each to have your lawyer review. This is an important step because your divorce or custody agreement needs to comply with North Carolina law, and a mediator cannot give you legal advice. This agreement will ultimately become part of your divorce decree.
If you aren’t able to resolve something, that issue will need to go before the family court.
It’s important to prepare in advance
As with most human endeavors, preparation is key to a successful mediation. You could be determining who will live in the house, where the kids will live most of the time, who will be authorized to make important decisions regarding the children, and the overall expectations of each person as you co-parent together in the years to come.
Sit down and write out a list of what issues are important to you. Try to describe what you would like to see in a court order that you and your divorcing spouse will be required to obey. Be as detailed as you can.
For example, where do you think the children should live? How much time should the other parent get with the children? How will you divide h holidays? What should happen if there is a dispute?
Then, make an appointment with your attorney for a time before the mediation. At this meeting, your attorney can help you understand your rights and what you might reasonably expect. Your lawyer may explain how to frame the issues or give advice on what to say and not to say. He or she can give you tips on what a good settlement agreement should include.
Mediation is a chance for a peaceful settlement
If you can resolve all of your issues through mediation, this is the best thing for you and your children. There will be no trial, just a court date to get your agreement made into a court order and decree. You and your ex may even learn how to communicate better about your issues, if only for the children.
It’s crucial to work with a compassionate attorney who will walk you through what to expect and go the extra mile for your family.