Custody and Visitation – The Mediation Requirement
Custody and visitation – Mediation required in NC. Divorce is a very stressful event for everyone involved. In addition to obtaining the absolute divorce, there are issues of property, finances, and children that need to be sorted out. Sometimes, the parties are able to work things on their own or via a prenuptial agreement (before marriage) or a separation agreement (after marriage). However, sometimes some of these issues become contested. Child custody and child support is often a highly-contested issue. For parties going through contested divorce, mediation is required when child custody or visitation is involved. For parties going through child custody proceedings, absent divorce proceedings, mediation is stiff required.
Unless waived by the court, mediation is required under N.C.G.S. § 50-13.1(b) for issues involving child custody or visitation of a minor child. A contested divorce may involve issues such as alimony, equitable distribution, child custody, child support, etc. This entry will attempt to explain the purpose of court-ordered mediation and the role it plays in contested divorces, as they relate to the issues of child custody and visitation.
Why is Mediation a Requirement?
- To reduce any acrimony that exists between the parties to a dispute involving custody or visitation of a minor child;
- The development of custody and visitation agreements that are in the child’s best interest;
- To provide the parties with informed choices and, where possible, to give the parties the responsibility for making decisions about child custody and visitation;
- To provide a structured, confidential, non-adversarial setting that will facilitate the cooperative resolution of custody and visitation disputes and minimize the stress and anxiety to which the parties, and especially the child, are subjected; and
- To reduce the re-litigation of custody and visitation disputes.
How are Mediators Trained?
All mediators who are certified in the Family Financial Settlement Program must meet the criteria laid out in Family Financial Settlement (FFS) Rule 8. Part of the criteria includes but is not limited to the mediator having to:
- Complete a 40-hour approved FFS training course, except that applicants who are already superior court (MSC) certified, or who have completed all requirements for such certification or who have completed family mediation training in another state may take a 16-hour short court course in lieu of completing the 40-hour course.
- Complete two observations of mediations conducted by either a certified family financial mediator, an NCAOC custody mediator, or an advanced petitioner member of the ACR;
- Demonstrate a basic understanding of NC family law (an applicant may waive out of this requirement or complete an approved 12-hour NCBA course on the basics of family law);
- Demonstrate good moral character.
What are the Benefits of Mediation?
Mediation occurs without the lawyers from each side being present. A court-appointed mediator is assigned to the parties and the mediation session occurs in a private setting. None of the communications which take place between the parties are admissible in court, so both parties have an opportunity to speak freely about the issues which they seem to disagree on.
What is the Result of Mediation?
If the parties are able to reach agreeable terms on certain contested items, like child custody and visitation, the mediator will reduce those terms to a writing known as a parenting agreement. The parties are not obligated to sign the agreement and may take a copy of the agreement from mediation with them to review. If there are items which the parties are unable to agree on, the mediator will report those findings to the court and a hearing may be scheduled at a later time for those items.
What if the Parties Sign the Parenting Agreement?
If the parties can agree on all items during mediation and they sign the parenting agreement, the agreement will be incorporated in a court order and shall become enforceable as a court order. Any violations of the agreement by a party may allow the non-violating party to file a motion for contempt of the court order.
If you need a family law attorney, contact Gilles Law. We handle divorce, custody, child support, adoption, and other family law matters in Charlotte, North Carolina and the surrounding areas.
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