Family law issues are more than legal concerns. They are highly personal matters that can be challenging and stressful.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution conducted in a private, voluntary and confidential manner. It is a sensible approach for resolving traumatic changes within the family setting, such as a separation, divorce, child custody matters, child support, spousal support and division of property and debts.
In York County, mediation with a certified family court mediator is required for parties in all family and civil law cases before a trial may be scheduled. Our Certified Family Law Mediator helps steer clients toward their own solutions and resolutions.
Meetings take place in a private, comforting office setting with technological advances that help us navigate the issues visually to gain understanding and reach consensus. We work to find a peaceful means of addressing your specific concerns, while saving you the stress and money associated with a trial.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a private, voluntary process in which parties meet with a neutral third-party mediator who helps them work through conflicts to reach an agreement. The success of the mediation depends on the participants’ willingness to work through their differences. Mediation sessions last at least three hours, unless an agreement is reached sooner.
When is mediation needed?
In many counties in South Carolina, including York County, parties are required to attend mediation before the Family Court will allow a final hearing to be scheduled in your case. Mediation is not currently required in Chester and Lancaster Counties, although many judges in those Counties recommend it.
What does a mediator do?
A mediator helps people discuss issues and explore options to settle conflicts. As a neutral third-party, the mediator cannot take sides in a case.
Does a mediator have to be certified?
At Morton & Gettys, family law mediator Michael Smith is a Supreme Court of South Carolina Certified Mediator. Parties, however, may agree to use a mediator who is not certified.
Do both parties have a say in choosing a mediator?
Yes. Both parties must approve the mediator before beginning mediation. If the parties are unable to agree upon a mediator, the Family Court will appoint one.
What issues may be resolved through mediation?
Family law mediators assist parties in reaching agreements on issues such as child custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, division of marital property and debts, as well as other related issues in dispute. Mediated agreements on these issues tend to be very detailed and tailored to the needs of the parties.
May unmarried parents participate in family law mediation, or is it reserved for divorcing couples?
Yes, unmarried parents who need assistance working through child custody, parenting time, child support, and other issues may work with a family law mediator.
Who attends mediation sessions?
The mediator, the parties needing assistance and their attorneys, if any, will attend the mediation session. Others agreed to by the mediator and all parties may attend as well as any parties ordered by the court.
What are the benefits of family law mediation?
May we meet with a mediator before filing a case in Family Court?
- The mediator is neutral and will not take sides.
- The outcome of a case is determined by the parties involved rather than by a judge.
- Mediation is less time-consuming and less expensive than litigation.
- The mediation process is private and confidential.
- Mediation can improve communication and create an effective working relationship between parties.
- Mediation can reduce conflict and stress.
Yes. Mediating a dispute before filing a case can greatly reduce your legal costs, save you time, and help you avoid the stress of litigation.
Where are mediation sessions held?
Mediation will be held within the county in which the case is filed at a site designated by the mediator or a site agreed upon by the parties and the mediator. Typically, mediation sessions are held at my office.
Do I need an attorney?
No. If you do not have an attorney you may attend mediation alone. Please note, however, attorneys help clients understand the law, make informed decisions, prepare orders for the judge’s signature, and complete the legal procedures necessary to protect your legal interests.
Do mediators offer legal advice?
No. Only an attorney may give you legal advice. A mediator cannot give legal advice at any time and does not represent either party. The mediator helps mediation participants talk, explore issues, discuss possible solutions, and reach an agreement.
How does a mediation session end?
What if we cannot reach agreement on all issues?
The parties’ decision to end a session will vary:
- With a full agreement on all issues
- With a partial agreement
- With no agreement
- With a decision to continue mediating at another session
If an agreement is reached, the mediator may prepare a memorandum of understanding outlining the terms. The parties’ attorneys or the mediator will use this outline to create a more formal agreement, which is submitted to the Family Court for approval.
Most mediations end with a full or partial agreement. Even if only a partial agreement is reached through mediation, it can still help define the issues and limit the time and money spent on your case. If a partial agreement or no agreement is reached, your case, if filed, will proceed in Family Court.
Is a mediation agreement binding?
A mediation agreement is not binding until it is approved and signed by a judge, at which point it becomes an enforceable order.
Why should I take time to prepare for mediation?
Settling a case involving divorce includes making decisions that may affect your future finances, time with your children, ownership of property and payment of debts. By taking the time to think through these issues carefully and gather important papers, you can help move the process along more quickly. Preparation will also help you remember all the issues and details that are important to you when your mediation takes place.
How are mediation sessions scheduled?
To schedule a family law mediation session with Michael, please contact his paralegal, Michele Allen, at 803.366.3426 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. She will provide you with available dates and times and guide you in preparing for your first session.