Kimberly A. Wallis an attorney with the Raleigh North Carolina law firm of Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC educates on the subject of child custody mediation in the North Carolina family courts.
In North Carolina, all parties to a custody or visitation case must participate in mandatory custody mediation prior to a permanent custody hearing unless exempted by the Court.
What is custody mediation?
Custody mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where an independent third party tries to assist two parties in reaching an agreement regarding custody of their children.
Are attorneys present during mediation?
Lawyers are not permitted to be present during the mediation process. You and your spouse will first be required to attend a custody orientation session. After the orientation, you and your spouse will be required to attend at least one session together with a mediator.
What can I do to prepare for mediation?
Meeting with an attorney in advance of mediation will help you understand what to expect and to be better prepared for mediation. A lawyer can explain the law in North Carolina as it relates to custody. In North Carolina, in an initial custody dispute, the standard that the Court looks to is what is in the best interest of the child. This means that there is no presumption in favor of either a mother or a father, but that a judge will determine the custodial arrangement that is in the child’s best interest.
In addition, a lawyer can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case, as well as help you set realistic expectations. For example, absent evidence that your spouse is unfit, it would be unreasonable for you to assume that your spouse would not have visitation rights with your minor child. Likewise, it would unreasonable to assume that you would have your minor child every year for Christmas.
An attorney will also be able to help you articulate your “best case” scenario; ie. the optimal custodial schedule that you would likely receive in court, as well as a “worst case” scenario. This will help you to decide what terms you should consider and when you would want to declare an impasse and end the mediation process.
Last, your lawyer should help you identify areas that you would like to address in a parenting agreement, including but not limited to, issues involving legal custody, physical custody, holidays and summer, decision-making, third-party care, communication during non-custodial periods and moving out of state.
What happens if we aren’t able to reach an agreement?
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, an impasse will be declared so that case can be calendared for trial. The mediator will not make a determination in situations where the parties are unable to reach an agreement. The sole job of the mediator is to assist the parties in negotiation of an agreement. In addition, parties who do not reach a full parenting agreement in mediation are required to attend a parenting education program.
Will I have to attend mediation if there has been domestic violence?
Even in cases involving domestic violence, you are required to attend custody mediation unless you obtain an order exempting you from this requirement. Upon a showing of good cause, a party may file a motion to be relieved of the requirement to attend mandatory custody mediation. Good cause may include, but is not limited to, a showing of undue hardship; a showing by a party that he or she resides more than fifty (50) miles from the court; an agreement between the parties for voluntary mediation; allegations of abuse or neglect of the minor child; allegations of substance abuse; or allegations of domestic violence or allegations of severe psychological, psychiatric or emotional problems
Contributor: Kimberly A. Wallis – Kimberly A. Wallis, a Raleigh Family Law Attorney is a North Carolina Board Certified Family Law Specialist with the Raleigh, North Carolina Divorce Law Firm of Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC. For more information contact: Raleigh, North Carolina Family Law Firm, Gailor, Wallis & Hunt at 1101 Haynes Street, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27604. Tel: 919-832-8488, www.gailorwallishunt.com.
Disclaimer: The Information contained in this article is intended as a general guide and is not to be used as legal advice by Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC. Whether or not you may be entitled to take action in regard to the information addressed in this article can only be determined after a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of your case. You may contact Raleigh Divorce Attorneys of Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, PLLC, a full service divorce law firm, at 919-832-8488 or 910-509-7223.