Under the best of circumstances, separation and divorce are difficult. Over the past few years, courts across our country have increasingly examined the role they play in the dissolution of marriages. In particular, the adversarial nature of divorce litigation and trial have been called into question. Courts have been and are continuing to look for ways to soften the blow of divorce. In North Carolina, our courts have been a leader in offering dispute resolution alternatives to protracted litigation and trial. In the family arena, mediation and other settlement procedures are available to assist couples involved in financial disputes. The alternative procedures do not pit one spouse against another, but instead offer parties the opportunity and support they need to settle their disputes themselves.