Understanding the Divorce Mediation Process

27954157_sDivorcing couples who wish to easily find resolutions to issues related to divorce, such as child custody and spousal support, undergo a step-by-step process of mediation. Mediation is an alternative to the costly, lengthy and formal divorce court process.

Divorce mediation is facilitated by a mediator, an impartial and third-party professional who acts as an intermediary and helps couples come to an agreement on their divorce-related issues.

There are six steps involved in divorce mediation:

Introductions and process overview is the first step in a divorce mediation process. The mediator makes it a point that both parties are fully aware that going through mediation is a voluntary and consensual process, and that mediation is beneficial to all parties. The mediator also makes it very clear that he/she is impartial, and that all parties involved in the process are bound by the rule of confidentiality, including the mediator.

After the introductions, each party takes turns in making an opening statement about the issues related to their divorce, as well as their positions on the issues they are facing. This step allows the mediator to know the concerns to be tackled and the resolutions to seek.

Once the opening statements have been given by each spouse, both parties are placed by the mediator in separate rooms. The mediator will have a private meeting with each spouse to discuss each issue that has been brought up and the possible resolutions. The mediator communicates a lot at this point.

The gathered information is summarized by the mediator from time to time to keep both spouses updated. The mediator may also ask several questions to gain a better understanding of issues and positions of both parties.

Often times, common goals are achieved after thorough discussions. The mediator assists both parties in identifying the best ways to resolve divorce-related issues.

The mediator provides assistance to both spouses in reaching common ground wherein the resolutions on certain issues are obtained. The divorce mediator prepares a mediation agreement that contains the complete and binding resolution of the tackled divorce-related issues. The mediation agreement is then signed by both spouses including their respective lawyers, if any.

In a divorce mediation wherein divorcing parties are not able to reach an agreement, the mediator reports to the court, without any comment or recommendation, that the parties have not reached an agreement.

Divorce Mediation FAQs

7471380_sMediation is a process in which divorcing spouses meet with a mediator who is a neutral third party.  It allows the separating couple to plan for their own lives and make good decisions regarding their future while living apart from each other. Mediation is especially beneficial for couples with children so they can continue to make joint decisions about their children’s future. The best thing about mediation is that the settlements agreed by the couple have a higher chance of compliance since both parties have compromised in the agreement.  Here are a few frequently asked questions about North Carolina Divorce Mediation.

What can a mediator do to help a divorcing couple?

A family law mediator is specially trained to help divorcing spouses obtain a resolution to their divorce issues. The mediator is responsible for facilitating the communication between both parties during the mediation process to ensure that each party is provided with uninterrupted time to speak. The mediator also asks questions to make the points of each party clearer, and requests any party to repeat the statement or explain a point if necessary. Also, the mediator gives information about how the legal system works, how the judge may view the couple’s issues, and potential alternatives for resolving issues. The mediator will then help the couple find ways to resolve the matter in a way that’s acceptable to both of them.

How does the divorce mediation process work in North Carolina?

The mediator and the couple meet with their attorneys for mediation. Typically mediations take place over the course of several hours. However, if the first session has gone well and the mediator thinks that an additional session may be helpful to settle the case then an additional meeting may take place. During the session, the couple and the attorneys will identify the issues to be discussed, and the parties and the mediator discuss about how to compromise on different issues with the goal of meeting the needs of each party. It is best if the parties have already exchanged financial information and disclosed any issues that might arise during mediation.

The mediator assists the couple by giving information about the court system and ways that the divorce issues are commonly resolved. Upon reaching agreement on all issues, the mediator drafts the settlement for review by both parties and their respective attorneys (if any). If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the court will hear the case in a regular court hearing. 

Will a lawyer be required during mediation?

Not always. In North Carolina, there are typically two mediation sessions. If a lawsuit has been filed, the court requires parties to attend court ordered mediation for custody and a separate private mediation for property. During the court ordered custody mediation attorneys are normally not present. During property or equitable distribution mediation attorneys and clients meet with a private mediator selected by the parties. It’s worthy to note, however, that mediation is not a substitute for the services of an attorney. In fact, both parties are encouraged to get independent legal representation during the mediation process so the lawyer can review the agreement before the divorcing client signs it. A mediator who is also a lawyer cannot provide legal advice to either party. Throughout the course of divorce mediation, the lawyer informs the client of his/her legal rights and options, coaches the client, comes up with effective settlement ideas based on the lawyer’s experience and knowledge, and prepares the necessary divorce papers when the agreement is signed.

Not all North Carolina family lawyers support divorce mediation. Many adversarial lawyers have little or no experience with non-adversarial approaches used in mediation, and some even believe that divorcing spouses should not negotiate on their own. If you’re facing a divorce in NC and you wish to mediate your divorce