When spouses decide to divorce, countless issues must be resolved, including which process they’ll use to end their relationship. While at one time, the only method for dissolving the relationship was to take a divorce to court, mediation is now a popular alternative.
To find out whether mediation might be a good option for your family law matter, please call or connect with us online today. Our Lincolnton mediation lawyer can provide a confidential consultation at our office or wherever is most convenient for you.
What Is Mediation and How Does It Work in Family Law Cases?
Couples often turn to mediation when they wish to have more control over the divorce process than in a litigated divorce. Mediation allows couples to resolve contested matters in an informal and more cooperative atmosphere.
The couple will typically meet with a trained, impartial mediator in a less-formal setting, like the mediator’s office or online. The mediator’s role will be to help both parties identify the various personal and financial issues at hand and come to a mutually acceptable agreement.
Some of the most common issues that can be resolved through mediation include:
- Equitable division of marital assets
- Child custody, visitation, and support
- Payment of legal fees and other costs
If and when the divorcing spouses reach an agreement on each matter, they will typically create a settlement agreement with the help of the mediator and their attorneys. The parties will then submit the agreement to the Family Court for approval.
If the couple cannot agree on terms during mediation, they could return to the traditional and more adversarial process of having their lawyers negotiate and litigate matters on their behalf.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Mediation?
Family law attorneys often serve as mediators. Mental health professionals and financial professionals could also bring valuable knowledge and experience to the mediation process. While the mediator will actively participate in the negotiations, they are not a judge and cannot control the decision-making process for the couple.
Before hiring a lawyer for assistance with mediation, it might be wise to ask the following questions to make sure they are a good fit:
- Have you ever worked with clients going through mediation?
- Have you been trained in mediation?
- How will the fees be calculated? Are they the same as your usual hourly rate?
What Are the Benefits of Family Mediation?
Mediation is not a new or unique concept since working with a neutral third party to resolve disputes can come in handy in many situations. Because divorce can be emotionally charged, expensive, and time-consuming, many couples find mediation allows them to take more control over the process, particularly when it comes to time and money.
Mediation is frequently referred to as alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It can be used as an alternative to going to court or could supplement that process. While mediation can still be contentious at times, many couples find that it is less painful, less formal, and allows them to feel more in control of the results.
Some benefits of mediation include:
- Reduced costs – Divorce can be a costly endeavor, and the adversarial nature of a litigated divorce could prolong the length of the case, costing both parties as a result. Mediation can be more cost-effective since the couple has to pay for only one mediator, instead of both spouses hiring lawyers and paying court fees.
- More flexibility – A litigated divorce is a rigid process. The parties must strictly adhere to the dates set by the court, and the case could take months or years to resolve. In mediation, the divorcing couple can select meeting dates that fit their schedules and might be able to reach an agreement after just a few sessions. Also, the meetings are much less formal than a trial, which often allows for a more collaborative approach to resolving issues, including open dialog and brainstorming.
- More control – In a litigated divorce, the judge will have the final say in financial and parenting matters, and both sides must abide by what the judge determines. With mediation, the divorcing spouses have much more control in crafting workable solutions for their families.
At What Stage Should I Consider Family Mediation?
Mediation can be helpful at any stage of the divorce process. Whenever you and your spouse decide to resolve your differences outside of court, mediation can help.
However, it’s important to note that mediation is most effective when both parties listen to each other and find solutions to their issues together. That means it is wise to use mediation before the litigation process has created too much animosity and mistrust between parties.
Mediation at the early stages could save a significant amount of money, especially if it is done before the lawyers initiate the expensive discovery process, and could minimize stress in the long run.
Are There Penalties for Failing to Reach a Settlement?
Failing to settle through mediation does not result in any penalties. Both parties could still return to the traditional litigated divorce process. However, if you fail to settle, you will still have to pay your mediator and attorneys, court fees, and more. So, if you cannot agree on terms during mediation, the overall divorce process could end up being more expensive.
Contact Our Lincolnton Family Mediation Lawyers
If you and your spouse have decided to divorce and are considering mediation in North Carolina, turn to the experienced Lincolnton family mediation lawyers of Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, P.L.L.C., for help. You can trust our knowledgeable mediation attorneys to guide you through the process and help you move on to a new phase of your life.
Call us or reach out to us online to discuss how we can help you.