North Carolina requires all property distribution cases also known as “equitable distribution” be mediated before any trial takes place. The purpose is to attempt to clear an overworked system of cases that can be resolved without a judicial hearing. Even if you know there is little to no chance of settlement mediation is still required.
So what happens at mediation?
Both parties and their lawyers usually meet at the mediator’s office to discuss settlement. Any settlement discussions are not admissible at trial. No agreement is reached unless all the parties agree.
Is mediation a good thing?
Yes- because if gives the parties a chance to resolve a case outside court which usually costs.
Who pays for mediation?
The mediator’s fee is split 50/50 between the parties, unless the parties agree otherwise. Generally there is a setup fee of $150 and hourly rates from $200-$300 per hour.
How long does mediation last?
Typically mediation is scheduled for a minimum of two (2) hours, but for complex cases it can take much longer. If the parties reach an impasse the mediation may end early, to minimize fees.
Who is the mediator?
The mediator is generally a local attorney not involved in your case that the parties agree on to facilitate settlement discussions. If the parties can’t agree on a mediator the Judge will appoint one for you.
Where does mediation take place?
Usually the mediation will be held at the mediator’s office as a neutral ground, but the parties can agree to meet wherever they choose.
Will my lawyer be present?
Yes- all lawyers and parties should be present. If you do not have an attorney you should consider hiring one on a limited basis to attend the mediation. Remember the mediator is supposed to be neutral, but their ultimate objective is to force the parties into settlement and they will lean on whoever they feel is more willing to move. That may be you if you do not have an attorney.
Can we also discuss alimony and custody at the property distribution mediation?
Although the mediation is technically just for property distribution, sometimes it is easier to discuss all issues to reach a settlement. The scope of the mediation is totally up to the mediator and the parties involved.
What should I take to mediation?
Take anything and everything relevant to your case such as financial records, 401K statements, IRA statements, tax returns, W2's, pay-stubs, evidence of property values, credit card statements, a credit report and a completed Equitable Distribution affidavit detailing all your assets and debts. The last thing you or the other party wants to do is make an decision based on incomplete information.
How do I prepare for mediation?
Meet with your attorney ahead of time to discuss strategy and expectations. Just like buying a used car you need to do your research ahead of time and know what things are worth before you show up. Make sure you also have received any paperwork you need from the other side to make an informed decision.
What happens if we reach an agreement at mediation?
If an agreement is reached usually a memorandum of agreement is signed that day before anyone has a chance to change their mind.
What if we don’t reach an agreement?
The Court will be notified and your case will eventually be set for a hearing in front of a Judge. You can still continue settlement discussions up to the hearing date.
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