In North Carolina, all parents having active custody cases are required to participate in custody mediation. Only the parents attend. No third parties are permitted to participate. The mediation session is conducted by a mediator who is a neutral third party. The mediator is either a Court employee or a private person. The mediator receives specialized training to assist parents in resolving their differences. The mediator is not a Judge or arbitrator who can decide the outcome of the case. The role of the mediator is to assist parents to reach a settlement.
Custody mediation begins after one parent files a new complaint for custody or a request to change an existing custody order. If the parents reach an agreement, a Parenting Plan is prepared by the mediator. Once the agreement is signed by both parents, it is given to the Judge. When the agreement is signed by the Judge, it becomes a Court order. Settlement in custody mediation avoids the parties having to go to Court. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the case will be scheduled for a hearing before a Judge.
Custody mediation has several advantages. It is an opportunity for parents to reach an agreement on their own about the custody of their children. It is better for everyone to reach an agreement about their children rather than have a Judge decide for them. Custody mediation through the Courts is free. Parents can avoid expensive legal fees. Parties can minimize the stress, anxiety, time and the expense of going to Court. When a parent reaches their own agreement on the custody of their children, they are more likely to follow the agreement.
There are some instances where a person may be excused from attending custody mediation. This may be because of substance abuse, domestic abuse, one party living out of town or participation in private mediation. If a parent does not want to attend, a Motion to Waive Custody Mediation must be filed. The decision to waive custody mediation will be decided by a District Court Judge. If the Judge grants the Motion, the parties’ participation in custody mediation will be waived. If the Motion is denied, the parents will be required to attend custody mediation.
The custody mediation process involves several steps. Participation is in-person or online. The first step is to attend the custody mediation orientation. This is an overview of the mediation process. The next step is to attend a Parenting Class. When attendance at the orientation and Parenting class is completed, a session with the custody mediator is scheduled. Most sessions run about 2 hours. If needed, additional time may be scheduled. If an agreement is reached, a Parenting Plan will be prepared. If an agreement is not reached, the case will be referred to the Court for a trial before the Judge.
If you need assistance with a custody case, please contact The Law Office of Stephen Robertson. Our experienced and skilled attorneys can assist you through the process.