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.