Does Mediation Really Work in a Contested Family Court Case?

Mediation is a common way to work through issues in contested family court cases. It’s a way to resolve disputes without going to court. But is it really effective? If you live in South Carolina, there are some things to know about mediation.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a unique tool designed to assist parties in a contested family court case to work together to reach a mutual resolution regarding custody, financial issues, property issues, and parenting plans, for example. The mediator works with the parties to identify issues, assist with communication during the process, and attempts to help parties formulate a settlement agreement.

Is Mediation Required?

Yes. In South Carolina, mediation is mandatory for contested family court cases. Absent a court order to the contrary, parties must participate in mediation before the court will allow a contested final hearing to be scheduled. The South Carolina Supreme Court commissioned a study to determine the efficacy of mediation in contested family court cases, and the impact on clearing up our clogged family court rosters. It was determined that mediation can be very successful, and it has helped resolve some of the family court case backlog.

What Happens at Mediation?

The goal of mediation is to assist the parties in resolving their contested issues. A third-party neutral, that is, someone with mediation experience who is not biased toward either party, will speak to each party, usually separately, to ascertain the core contested issues and to help each party come up with solutions that may resolve the issues. A good mediator does not impose their own will on the parties, but rather, helps the parties try to think of creative solutions to their problems.

In South Carolina, parties are required to mediate for at least three hours, however, only the mediator may end the mediation when he or she believes there is an impasse, which is when the parties have reached a point that neither is willing to compromise any further, and continued negotiations would be futile. 

Except in very rare circumstances, what is said at mediation, and documents produced for mediation, are private, and cannot be disclosed at the contested trial. The reason for this rule is to allow people to speak freely, negotiate, and offer solutions, without fear that it will hurt them later at trial.

Do I Need an Attorney for Mediation?

Legally, you don’t have to have an attorney represent you during the mediation process. However, as with all contested family court matters, it is strongly recommended you have a knowledgeable attorney assist you in preparing for mediation and guiding the mediation negotiations in a way that is fair for you and your family. An experienced attorney can ensure that you completely understand the settlement offers, options to continue negotiations, and the legal and practical consequences of any issue you agree to resolve.

No matter what family court case you’re facing, it’s vital to have representation you can trust to protect you through the process. For help with anything related to family law, including divorce, custody, financial agreements, parenting plans, and more, contact the experienced legal team at McCutchen McLean, LLC.

What Happens to My Retirement if I Don’t Have a Will?

Do you and your loved one have a will? Do you know what happens to a retirement account if you don’t? Having a retirement account is critical to supporting yourself when it’s time to withdraw from the working world. It tends to be one of the largest assets by the time of retirement. However, should the unthinkable happen, and you or your loved one dies with a large sum left in the account, it’s good to know what happens to that money, especially if you don’t have a will. Here’s what you need to know.

With a Beneficiary

If someone has an IRA or a 401(k), they most likely named a beneficiary for those accounts. Should the account holder die before the beneficiary does, with money left in those retirement accounts, that money will go to the named recipient.

Without a Beneficiary

If you or a family member dies after the named beneficiary or dies without one named, the funds in those retirement accounts transfer to the deceased’s estate. Once the probate process is complete, distribution of funds to the heirs named in the will can take place.

Without a Will

When someone dies without a will, it’s called intestate. If this happens, the courts step in to manage the estate of the deceased in a process called probate. A judge will assign a representative to manage the estate during probate, including the assets, accounts, and belongings left behind. With direction from the court, that representative is responsible for the distribution of those assets and accounts to the living heirs.

If your loved one passes away without a will, you don’t have to go through the overwhelming probate process alone. It’s vital to have an attorney represent you and your interests during what can be a very emotional and stressful time. Reach out to the team at McCutchen McLean, LLC for the professional legal support you need.



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