5 Things to Expect in Custody Mediation

custody mediation

5 Things to Expect in Custody Mediation

Parents involved in a custody dispute for the first time can be overwhelmed by the process.  Knowing what to expect can help calm your fears.  Participating in custody mediation is one of the first things you will do when you start your custody case.  Below are five things to expect from mediation.

1. It’s Mandatory

Custody mediation is mandatory in North Carolina. North Carolina made mediation mandatory to avoid clogging up the court system. If it’s possible your case can settle without a hearing, you should have that chance. It’s much more cost effective that way.

While mediation is mandatory, you don’t have to reach an agreement.  The only mandatory part is showing up and participating in the process. It’s extremely difficult to reach an agreement in high-conflict custody cases. The mediator will stop the mediation if he or she believes you and the other parent can’t reach an agreement.

While mediation is mandatory, there are some exceptions. The judge has the discretion to sign an order waiving custody mediation. If you qualify for one of the exceptions, you can file a motion to waive custody mediation. Some of the common exceptions are:

2. Plan to go to Orientation

Odds are, you have never participated in mediation before. You don’t know what to expect or why you even have to go. Mediation orientation will allow you the chance to educate yourself on the process. You’ll also learn the pros and cons of mediation versus a custody trial.

At orientation, you’ll watch a video that is approximately 2 hours long. The other parent will likely be there too so make sure you’re prepared to see them.  You’ll need about half a day off of work for orientation.  Thankfully, you should receive a date to attend orientation well in advance.  You should have plenty of time to notify your employer you’ll need time off. You will not participate in mediation the same day you have orientation.  Instead, you’ll receive your mediation date after you attend orientation.  You’ll need at least another half a day to attend mediation so make sure you notify your employer as soon as possible.

You should have all your questions answered by the orientation video. If you have any lingering questions, make sure to ask your attorney so you can feel as prepared as possible.

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3. Your Mediator is Not the Judge

Your mediator is not there to judge your custody case. He doesn’t have the power to decide what happens in your case. He can’t even report anything you say in mediation to the Judge. Your mediator is a neutral third-party. He is there to facilitate communication between you and the other parent so you two can reach an agreement that works for you. Don’t worry beforehand about trying to win him over with your side of the facts. It will only cause you unnecessary anxiety. Instead, take some time to prep for mediation. Make a list of things you absolutely must have in the custody agreement. Then, make a list of things you’d like to have but aren’t deal breakers if you don’t get them. Understanding what is most important to you will help you negotiate with intention the day of mediation.

4. No Attorneys Allowed

North Carolina doesn’t allow attorneys to be present during custody mediation. This saves you the financial burden of hiring legal representation. If you can settle the custody case in mediation, you probably don’t need to hire an attorney. So expect to go into mediation alone. The other parent will be alone as well. You can take a friend or family member for moral support. But they are not allowed inside the actual mediation.

5. Find Out What the Other Person Wants

It’s a not-so-closely-guarded secret that mediation is a perfect time to find out what the other party will say in Court. Oftentimes, people don’t realize that the mediator is not the judge. They end up trying to persuade the mediator. In the process, they detail their entire case against you. Try not to take the bait when this happens. Instead of arguing and convincing the mediator that you’re right, listen quietly and make mental notes. Report back to your attorney on what you learned. This inside look will help them tailor your own case for court.

Custody cases can be very complex.  You should have trustworthy representation by your side every step of the way.  Contact our office to speak a knowledgeable family law attorney today.

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