A mediator is a neutral third person who works with parties to help them attempt to resolve their issues in dispute in a mutually satisfactory manner. Mediation is different from arbitration. In mediation, the mediator works with the parties to help them reach an agreement between themselves whereas in arbitration, the arbitrator makes the decision for the parties, much the same as a judge.
In North Carolina, mediation is required in all divorce cases that involve financial issues, such as alimony and equitable distribution. Mediation is also required in child custody cases. Mediation can only be waived by permission of a judge, and failure to attend a scheduled mediation may subject you to a fine or other sanctions. As such, it is important that you cooperate with your attorney and the mediator and make yourself available to attend the mediation. The court usually will not schedule the matters in controversy for trial until the parties have completed mediation.
At the mediation, the mediator may meet with the parties individually or jointly. In either event, both parties will have an opportunity to talk to the mediator about their side of the case. The mediator will work with the parties to explore settlement options. Particularly in family financial mediations, attorneys generally accompany their clients to mediation to advise them of legal rights and responsibilities, and advantages and disadvantages that may be associated with settlement possibilities.
Mediations typically take at least several hours, but depending on the issues at hand, the mediation may take all day. Unless prior arrangements are made, it is customary for each party to pay one half of the mediator’s charges at the conclusion of the mediation.
Some of the many benefits of mediation are as follows:
- A mediated settlement relieves the parties of the uncertainty of a trial and gives them some control over the outcome of their case. If their case goes to trial, a judge or jury has exclusive decision-making authority.
- A mediated settlement allows the parties to avoid the time and expense of a trial. Preparing and scheduling a case for trial can prolong the litigation and be very expensive.
- Mediation is much less stressful than a court hearing since it is not necessary for the parties or witnesses to testify.
- Mediation may be scheduled at the date that is convenient for all parties rather than a date dictated by the court.
- Even if your case does not settle at mediation, mediation may pave the way for a future negotiated settlement or simplify issues that need to be addressed at trial.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.