What is mediation?
Mediation is a process that allows the participants to work with a mediator to reach a compromise and resolve conflict.
The issues can be related to parenting, paternity, custody, child support, visitation, medical insurance, alimony, debts, assets, and separation or divorce.
During the process of mediation, parties are able to explain their positions and thoughts openly, in a setting that encourages good communication.
What is a mediator?
A mediator is a neutral third party who helps you and your former partner or you and other persons (grandparents or other relatives) identify and discuss issues, as well as work on possible solutions.
The mediator does not take sides or make decisions for you. As the mediator cannot make a binding decision, the parties involved feel less pressure and stress.
While the mediator helps you arrive at an agreement, in the end, the participants make the decisions.
Why should you mediate before filing with the court?
The main reason to mediate is that you make decisions for your future, as opposed to having a stranger make those decisions for you.
You can address things in mediation that the court may not focus on.
You can structure an agreement that takes into consideration the needs of your family.
The mediation process can produce a much better outcome for all parties involved. The process can allow you to move forward with greater ease and clarity for yourself and your family.
Mediation is less expensive and takes less time than a contested family court battle. The process results in a better long-term relationship.
Mediation can be easier on children since the process is more peaceful and amicable.
If you are considering mediation, you have very little to lose by at least trying to resolve your conflict before filing with the courts.
When you go to court, you are putting your life and future in the hands of a judge that has limited knowledge as to your best interest or the best interests of your child(ren).
Mediation is mandatory in the state of South Carolina before trial. You can mediate prior to filing with the court, or you can mediate after filing.
All contested cases are required to attend mediation before a final hearing can be scheduled. If you would like to mediate your case before it goes to Court and all parties agree, a mediation consultation is necessary.
Is mediation confidential?
Mediation conferences are private and all communications made there are confidential.
No information from mediation is allowed in court except a copy of the agreement or the document proving you attended mediation.
You must sign a contract that outlines the rules of mediation, which includes confidentiality and payment terms.
How is mediation different from court?
Mediation allows the parties to control the resolution of their disputes. Because the parties control the process, your views and concerns are heard and acknowledged.
Mediation helps the parties to reach resolutions that are not usually considered, or that are not commonly used in court, which gives the parties a more beneficial outcome.
In mediation, parties reach their own agreement, which helps limit future problems.
A successful mediation can result in a quicker resolution of disputes at a lower cost.
Court time is minimal, as it is only necessary for the approval of the mediated agreement rather than a contested hearing.
Who can attend mediation?
Only parties may attend mediation. No other individuals can take part in the process without first obtaining approval from the opposing parties and the mediator.
How long does mediation take?
Mediation is scheduled for a minimum of three (3) hours and up to eight (8) hours per day. Some cases are scheduled for more than one (1) day.
Is everyone in the same room or different rooms?
Some people meet in the same room initially to go over all the issues and then meet with the mediator separately for the negotiations.
Some people start out in separate rooms.
Others prefer to meet via an online forum based on distance or work schedules.
Based on the circumstances of your case, a determination will be made that best promotes open communication and compromise.
Can you do mediation virtually?
Sessions can be held via Zoom. Your mediator will send you a secure link to log into your mediation room.
The format allows for everyone to be in the same room, be in a room with just the mediator, or a combination of both.
Third parties cannot be in the room with you unless everyone agrees.
What does the mediator need to mediate my case?
You will receive paperwork for each of the issues of your case. In all cases, financial information is necessary.
Financial information is necessary for the division of assets or debts, determination of child support, and determination of alimony, depending on what is applicable to your case.
Regardless of the issues, a financial declaration is required by the court to approve your agreement.
When can mediation be scheduled?
Mediation scheduling varies based on how quickly you provide the information necessary to the mediator.
Paperwork is sent to all participants for completion prior to the initial meeting.
Once the paperwork is completed and returned, an initial meeting is scheduled to discuss the process, the issues of your case, and a plan to move forward. This meeting is usually an hour.
If you decide to proceed with the mediation process, additional paperwork is sent to the parties to obtain the detailed information necessary for a successful mediation.
When the additional paperwork is returned, the mediation is scheduled. The time for scheduling is also dependent on the parties’ schedules.
Our policy is that all mediations must be scheduled within six months.
Our goal is to schedule the mediation as quickly as possible to allow the parties to move forward.
Do we still have to go to Court?
Once the parties reach an agreement and the agreement is signed, the court must approve that agreement. If you need a divorce, the divorce must be granted by the Court.
You have the option of agreeing on an attorney to represent one party to have the agreement approved. One attorney cannot represent all the parties.
Depending on the issues of your case and the complexity of the agreement, you may choose to file the paperwork without the assistance of an attorney.
Some people choose to wait to file with the court as they use mediation for a trial separation.
Do you take a retainer upfront and bill against that, or do you charge a flat fee?
There is an initial consultation flat fee that is paid before the first meeting. At the initial meeting, we will determine the number of issues of your case and what the projected costs are for mediation.
A retainer for mediation is paid, and if you exceed that retainer, an additional hourly rate is changed.
What does mediation cost?
The cost for mediation varies depending on the number of issues, the complexity of your case, and the amount of time necessary to mediate.
A case with no children and limited assets or debts usually costs less than a mediation with children and extensive assets or debts.
The rates of the mediator vary based upon the complexity of the case and the experience of the mediator.
Non-attorney certified mediators may be available for your case, depending on the complexity. A lower rate is charged for their services.
A determination of the type of mediator necessary can be made at your initial consultation.
Who pays for mediation?
Court rules require the equal division of these fees unless otherwise agreed upon. Some parties agree to equally divide the costs. Others have one party pay the costs or divide the cost based on the percentage of income.
Division of the costs is something that is determined at the initial consultation.
It is preferred that each party pay one-half of the mediation fees so that each side is equally invested in reaching a compromise.
Can a Mediator provide legal advice?
Mediators can give you information about state laws and local court procedures but cannot give legal advice. Mediators do not interpret statutes or advise about or recommend any specific legal action that would benefit either party over the other.
What happens if we do not settle in mediation?
In the absence of a settlement, the parties lose none of their rights to trial in Family Court. You will receive a document that provides proof of completion of mediation and lists the contested issues.
Mediation before filing has a very high success rate because the parties come to the table with the intention of resolving their conflict. Should one or more issues not be resolved, it does not mean that mediation was a waste.
An agreement can still be prepared on the issues that are resolved. You have the option to either hire attorneys to negotiate on your behalf and go to court on the unresolved issues or come back for another session of mediation to try to resolve the conflict.
Sometimes taking a break and returning to the table can be beneficial.
What type of mediation training or certification is required to be a mediator?
A mediator in South Carolina must have a specific educational background and complete a forty-hour course approved by the South Carolina Bar Association.
Additionally, the certification must be maintained annually through the South Carolina Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission.
Have questions or need assistance? Contact us.