WHAT IS FAMILY MEDIATION?
Family Mediation applies the basic principles of mediation to the resolution of issues that arise in families. It is non-adversarial. A trained family law mediator promotes discussion and negotiation that allows the participants involved in a conflict or a dispute the opportunity to exchange divergent views, ask questions, discuss difficult topics and find solutions. A family mediator is a neutral third party who assists the participants in exploring and finding mutually acceptable solutions. Family mediation can result in sound decision-making, reconciliation of divergent views, clearing the air, lessening resentment, greater understanding, improved communication, and better family relationships.
WHY CHOOSE FAMILY MEDIATION?
Getting divorced and/or dealing with custody and visitation issues outside of marriage, or post-divorce, can be both emotionally exhausting for all family members and financially devastating for the parents. Mediation is a process that can usually resolve these issues much sooner than litigation, thus restoring family stability. One of the greatest advantages of resolving family issues in mediation is that the parties control the outcome, meaning that any results are the product of an agreement rather than having a judge decide. It allows parents to structure individualized agreements addressing each parent’s specific concerns and the particular needs of their children. In mediation, parents are not forced to take harsh public positions against each other, and the possibility for co-parenting in a cooperative manner following the divorce is enhanced as a result. The potential for the family to save a significant amount of money is an additional benefit of choosing mediation. Not only are the attorney fees typically less, the amount of time that will be spent mediating rather than litigating the issues is also usually significantly less.
WHAT ISSUES CAN BE MEDIATED?
All issues that would be considered in Family Court can be addressed voluntarily in family mediation. Issues can include:
- Child custody, Time-sharing, Co-parenting and Child support
- Paternity issues
- Parental responsibility – who will make the day-to-day decisions about the children’s lives
- How the marital property, assets and debts will be divided between the parties
- Issues regarding spousal support (alimony)
- Post-divorce custody, visitation & support
- Grandparent visitation
- Grounds for Divorce
WHAT IS THE MEDIATOR’S ROLE?
A mediator facilitates discussion of issues but does not make decisions. In divorce mediation, the mediator will have a general understanding of the history and breakdown of the relationship, but will not address questions of fault. The mediator will focus discussion on planning for the future and will try to identify common interests of the parties. With the mediator, parents discuss various options and decide what plans will be best for their children and for them as parents. Family mediators guide the parties by suggesting possible solutions and options to address various issues through brainstorming, mediator experience, and attentive listening by the mediator. Realistic solutions are proposed and considered.
WHO ARE THE MEDIATORS?
To insure “high-quality” and high probability that UMC mediators can bring resolution to family issues, every UMC mediator needs to be trained. UMC mediator training requirements match programs that the American Bar Association recently called the “most demanding in the country.” The mediator training program is 40 hours in duration and approved by the Supreme Court of South Carolina. Many mediators have a legal and social work background, however it is not a requirement.
WHAT ROLE DO ATTORNEYS PLAY IN FAMILY MEDIATION?
You are welcome to bring your lawyer to mediation, if you want to, or you can use your lawyer as an advisor before and after a session. That’s completely up to you. Lawyers who understand and support mediation can help mediating spouses in several ways: by informing them of their legal rights and options, by coaching them through the negotiations, by coming up with creative settlement ideas, and by preparing the necessary divorce paperwork once an agreement is signed.
WHAT IF WE DO OR DO NOT REACH AGREEMENT?
The issues agreed upon are reduced to a written document called a “Memorandum of Understanding” which is sent to attorneys, if any, and can be used as a basis for the subsequent divorce decree or court order. If no agreement is reached, the case will be decided by the judge. In both cases, a Mediation Report will be sent to the Family Court advising the result of mediation so the court can schedule the appropriate hearing time. Discussions during mediation are considered confidential and cannot be used against you in court.
WHAT FAMILY LAW MEDIATION IS NOT
Family law mediation is not psychotherapy, marital counseling, or legal representation. Mediators with backgrounds in law or mental health (or other areas) do not represent or counsel mediation clients during the family mediation process, but rather serve as neutral facilitators of the decision-making process.