North Carolina parents going through the custody process will likely have to attend mediation. It is common for mediation to be a new experience for most people, and it is important to know what it is, what it isn’t and what to expect.
The first thing to know about mediation is it is not a traditional court proceeding. The point of mediation is for two parents to come to a custody agreement on their own, without having a court intervene.
When parents cannot agree on custody, a custody trial is held, and a judge makes the decisions on legal custody, which is decision making rights for a child, and physical custody, which is who the child lives with, and when. Mediation comes before a trial and allows the parents a chance to avoid the trial process.
You must be willing to compromise
Next, mediations require a spirit of compromise. It is natural to want to go in fighting for everything that you want, but the reality of sharing a child with someone you do not live with is that time with the child will need to be split, and you and the other parent will likely get a say in decisions. Going in with an “all or nothing” attitude will not generally result in a successful mediation.
However, while you should compromise when it appears appropriate, do not give more than you intend. You should still have a point that you set where you are no longer willing to compromise. The worst that can happen is your mediation is unsuccessful, and your case is scheduled for a trial. Agreements can still happen before trial, so an unsuccessful mediation does not mean a trial will definitely be held.
Prepare for your mediation by thinking in a detailed manner. Write down the exact schedule you are looking for, including days and times for the school year, summers, vacations and holidays. Have ideas for what to do if work schedules or living situations change.
Although attorneys do not attend custody mediations in North Carolina, it is helpful to speak with an experienced custody attorney prior to mediation. The attorney can help you prepare your arguments and evidence and provide advice on how to achieve a resolution in you and your child’s best interests.