Laws in North Carolina dictate that most child custody cases will start with mediation. The goal of this mediation is to assist parents in coming to an agreement about the custody of the children, and only if mediation is unable to generate this agreement will the case proceed to trial with the judge.
Some of the outcomes of a mediation agreement could include the physical location where the children will live, which religious background the children will be raised with, and what school the children will attend. Going through the process of mediation can significantly reduce the emotional trauma of a child custody case, and may reduce your time spent in the legal system. Where possible, mediation is an effective solution for child custody disputes.
Goals of mediation
Many outcomes can be achieved directly from mediation. Some of the goals of going through this process include generating custody and visitation agreements that represent the best interest of the child; reducing acrimony existing between the parents with regard to concerns over visitation and custody; giving parents responsibility for making their own decisions about child custody and visitation; reducing the likelihood of returning to court at a later date to argue with or attempt to alter custody arrangements; and, providing the opportunity to come to agreement in a non-adversarial setting. Statements made in the child custody mediation process cannot be used in a courtroom later, allowing parents to negotiate in a non-confrontational manner.
When is mediation a poor fit?
A judge can determine the parents do not have to go through the mediation process if a history of domestic violence, neglect of the children, or abuse allegations exist. If either one of the parents lives more than 50 miles away from the courthouse, mediation can also be dismissed as a viable option for determining child custody. If a parent is able to demonstrate that the court mediator is biased, mediation proceedings can be stopped.
If the parents involved in mediation are unable to come to an agreement about their children, the case can proceed to a courtroom overseen by a judge. Going to the courtroom can significantly delay the outcome of a custody case, since the judge will usually speak to witnesses or review other evidence in making a final decision.
Preparing for mediation
It’s recommended that you obtain legal counsel before heading into the mediation process. An informed lawyer can educate you about what to expect in mediation, how to prepare for your mediation meetings, and possible next steps if you cannot reach a solution in the mediation atmosphere.
Hiring an attorney early on will reduce your stress level and give you more peace of mind about what’s coming next. Attorney Jonathan Meek has a deep understanding of the mediation process in North Carolina. Contact Meek Law Firm today to discuss your options. Call (704) 848-6335 or use the contact form on the right of this page to schedule a consultation appointment.