|Q.||What is mediation?|
|A.||Mediation is a guided conversation that allows people to exchange information and make decisions that can help them avoid going to court. Custody mediation helps people discuss the best way to parent from different homes. People are not expected to agree on the past. However, they can design a future that helps them avoid repeating problems they have experienced.
The custody mediator is a professional who is trained and employed by the courts to facilitate the discussion. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong, or how the parenting should be arranged.
|Q.||How does the mediation program operate?|
|A.||Once a custody and / or visitation complaint is filed, the case is sent to the Custody Mediation Program. Parties in the custody case are court ordered to attend an orientation session and one mediation session.
Orientation is usually scheduled within 30 days of the date the case is sent to the Custody Mediation Program. Orientation is a group class that prepares you for mediation.
Mediation sessions may last up to two hours. Additional sessions may be scheduled if everyone agrees and the mediator has time. Only the parties named in the lawsuit are present for mediation.
The discussions in mediation sessions are private. The mediator will not share information discussed in the session with others, including the judge or attorneys. This rule does not apply if the mediator has concerns about child abuse, hears threats to harm someone, or witnesses a crime.
If the parties are able to agree on a plan in mediation, the mediator writes a draft of a Parenting Agreement and sends it to the parties and their attorneys to review. If the parties do not agree in mediation, the case moves forward for a judicial hearing.
Parties are strongly encouraged to meet with an attorney before signing a parenting agreement. Once the parties sign the Parenting Agreement, the judge reviews it. Once the judge signs the agreement, it is incorporated into a court order and the family avoids the stress and anxiety of going to court.
Each district has local rules that outline the operational procedures for their Custody Mediation Program. Select the county where your case is filed from the drop down menu.
|Q.||How do I get an appointment with the Custody Mediation Program in my county?|
|A.||The Custody Mediation Program is a mandatory program for people who have an active court case involving custody and/or visitation issues. Once a custody and/or visitation complaint is filed, the case is sent to the Custody Mediation Program and the parties will receive appointment information in the mail.
For people choosing mediation on their own, there are often community mediation programs in many counties throughout the state. Check your local listings for a program that will take walk-in clients in need of mediation.
|Q.||May I do this without an attorney?|
|A.||While it is highly recommended that you at least consult with an attorney to understand your legal options, you may choose to represent yourself. This will take significant effort and research on your part. Clerks and other court staff cannot provide you with legal advice, only an attorney can do that. Investigate to see if your judicial district has a self-help clinic which provides the necessary paperwork at no cost to initiate court actions. (Court filing fees still apply.)
For a helpful video from Legal Aid of North Carolina or go to www.legalaidnc.org.
Looking for an attorney?
The North Carolina Lawyer Referral Service provides names of lawyers who offer legal services to clients for one-half hour at a reduced cost. Legal fees should be discussed with the attorney.
North Carolina Lawyer Referral Service
1-800-662-7660 | Visit www.ncbar.org
Also, the yellow pages of the telephone book contain information about attorneys who specialize in family law. Be aware that the mediator is not able to recommend specific attorneys.
|Q.||Is mediation ever inappropriate?|
|A.||If you have serious concerns for your safety or the safety of your children, mediation is not the best place for you.
Substance abuse and alcoholism raise serious concerns. If these problems have been addressed elsewhere, parties can agree to include those specifics in a parenting plan. If these problems have not been addressed, families can talk about options during mediation. The mediator does not investigate concerns or make decisions for families.
Only a judge can allow your case to bypass mediation and go directly to court. The Motion and Order to Waive Custody Mediation form (AOC-CV-632), is available online at www.nccourts.org. Forms may also be picked up from the Custody Mediation office. Once filed, a judge will review the motion to determine whether mediation is waived or not.
|Q.||What is the cost for custody mediation?|
|A.||Mediation services are provided at no cost to the parties in a custody action. The General Assembly provides funding for the Custody Mediation Program because of the benefits it provides to parents and children of this state. |
|Q.||Is there a complaint procedure?|
|A.||If a participant has a complaint against either the mediator or the mediation process itself, the complaint is to be reduced to writing and mailed to the chief District Court judge in the district in which the mediation took place. |
|Q.||How do we figure out child support?|
|A.||Child support can be handled through your county child support office or through a judge’s order. Financial matters are not addressed in child custody mediation. |