When you and your spouse are arguing over various aspects of your divorce, fighting in court may not sit right with you. Despite deciding to end your marriage, that does not mean you hold hostility toward your spouse or want to make matters more difficult than they need to be.
You might worry that the court will escalate the issue and just make you both angrier and more resentful, particularly when it comes to deciding an arrangement for your children.
It is natural to hesitate to solve your problems in court. The legal process can feel like a cold and contentious way to deal with family matters. You may find a more suitable avenue through an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) option like mediation. Through mediation or arbitration, you and your spouse or your child’s other parent can work through your issues outside of a formal setting and minimize the amount of time you spend in a courtroom.
Whether you are going through a divorce, have a child custody issue, or need a post-divorce modification, you should contact a mediation attorney at Breeden Law Office to discuss the possible ADR methods and applicable North Carolina divorce law in your situation.
Mediation and arbitration can be effective; however, they are not applicable for every case. We are happy to explain your options. Contact our office today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule an appointment with an experienced divorce mediation lawyer.
Alternative dispute resolution encompasses various methods to remedy legal disagreements without going to court, presenting your arguments, and letting a judge decide.
In limited circumstances, ADR may be used entirely outside of the court system. Instead of ending your issue with a court order, you may sign a contract or file the agreement with a state agency.
However, in family matters like divorce and child custody disputes, ADR is typically used in conjunction with the court system. You still need to file your initial paperwork with the court, but you will use the ADR method, like mediation to come to an agreement, and then submit the agreement to the court for approval.
For example, divorce mediation could result in an agreement on issues like the division of assets and debts, child custody, and spousal support. You may also use it for only one issue, such as creating a co-parenting agreement with the court deciding everything else, including distributing the marital estate and alimony.
While there are a number of types of alternative dispute resolution, two that are commonly seen in North Carolina are mediation and arbitration.
Mediation is the process through which you and your spouse or child’s other parent negotiate the terms of an agreement with the guidance of an objective mediator. Issues that are typically resolved through mediation are parenting plans, child support, property division, and alimony.
You may choose to voluntarily go through mediation during your divorce. However, if you file for child custody or visitation, you will be required to take part in North Carolina’s Custody Mediation Program. In either situation, if mediation is not effective, you may move forward with a court hearing to decide the issues.
During mediation, both you and your spouse have the opportunity to speak. Your neutral mediator will keep the conversation on track, re-frame the issues when necessary, and facilitate communication. The mediator does not make any decisions or decide who is right or wrong.
Once you and your spouse or child’s other parent come to an agreement, the mediator drafts the agreement for review by you and your attorneys. If it is entirely agreed upon, the resolution is provided to the judge for approval.
When mediation is not the right process for you and your family, but you want to avoid a formal court setting, arbitration may be the appropriate ADR method to use during this time.
During arbitration for a family matter, which is governed by the North Carolina Family Law Arbitration Act, you and the other party present your side of the situation to a neutral arbitrator. This is far more similar to a court trial than mediation.
Each of you may present witnesses, your own testimony, and other evidence supporting your preferred resolution. The arbitrator then makes a final decision, which is submitted to the court. An arbitrator’s decision is binding and can only be appealed in certain situations and within a certain period of time.
Since it is so similar to a trial, you may wonder why you would choose arbitration over going to court. You can typically resolve multiple issues faster through arbitration than the family court system. You can discuss several issues during one arbitration session and ask for a decision on all of those instead of attending hearings on each issue in court.
Mediation and arbitration are not the right course for every family or dispute. In highly contentious situations, it may be best to let a judge review the facts and provide a solution in accordance with the law. However, many families can and do prefer to work out their differences outside of court. Doing so may lead to a number of advantages, such as:
You have the right to go through mediation and arbitration without an attorney. However, you are unlikely to derive the full value or benefit without legal counsel.
During mediation, you need to be confident in your understanding of your rights and your options. A mediation lawyer can ensure you go into any legal process with knowledge of your rights, the various resolution options, and the best and worst-case scenarios.
At Breeden Law Office, we have years of experience helping individuals deal with stressful family matters in the most effective way possible. We understand no one wants to draw out a divorce, child custody, or spousal support dispute. Let us review your situation, and if you may benefit from mediation or arbitration, we can explain what you can expect, anticipate any obstacles, and help guide you towards a favorable resolution