In any family legal dispute, you can expect there to be at least two parties who want different things. People might be arguing over property during divorce, child support payments or parental rights, so these disputes are often heated and contentious.
Considering how complex these situations are, it might seem that the only party capable of resolving them is a judge. However, this is not the case. Often, disputing parties can resolve an issue themselves with the help of a mediator.
What is a mediator?
In the context of a family legal issues like child custody or divorce, a mediator is a neutral third party hired to help people identify solutions without going to court. In North Carolina, some mediators must have certification and training from the Dispute Resolution Commission and are certified to conduct family financial mediations. Other mediators may not be certified but may be family law attorneys who have specialized knowledge and experience with family law issues.
What does a mediator do, or not do?
Mediators help parties communicate effectively. They do this by keeping conversations balanced and moving forward. They might ask for clarification or elaboration, if necessary. They also keep discussions focused on the pertinent topics and might offer some common solutions others use in similar situations if appropriate.
A mediator will not force parties to agree to anything, or make “rulings”. He or she does not take sides or provide advice. A mediator doesn’t decide what is fair or what the parties should agree to. In other words, a mediator is not a psychologist or a judge, and while many mediators are also attorneys, he or she is not a lawyer for either party.
Determining if mediation is right for your case
Whether the courts order you to mediation or you pursue it voluntarily, resolving family law matters in mediation can be effective, cost-efficient and more peaceful than litigation. However, it is not right for everyone in all situations. Therefore, you should discuss mediation and other methods of dispute resolution as they pertain to your specific circumstances with your attorney.