When a neutral third party meets with both parties and works to resolve issues.
For many years, mediation was the only alternative to litigation in family law cases and it is widely used today. In South Carolina, mediators attend a comprehensive 40-hour course preparing them to negotiate agreements. Mediation works better in some situations than others. Depending on the mediator, attorneys for the parties may or may not be present during the mediation. Once the parties concur, an agreement can be drawn up and presented to the Court for approval.
How It Works
- Parties agree on a mediator, expense is usually shared equally;
- Mediation is scheduled for one to three days;
- Clients’ attorneys may or may not be present at the mediation;
- Mediator attempts to negotiate an agreement on some or all issues in the case, either with the parties or shuttling between the parties; and
- If agreement is reached, the mediator or attorneys draw up an agreement that can then be taken to court and ratified by a judge.
Benefits of Mediation
- Emphasis on agreement: Certified Mediators complete an extensive 40-hour course, which trains them to help parties come to agreement.
- Issues can be resolved quickly: Mediation can usually be scheduled with little delay and it generally lasts less than two days.
- Costs are kept to minimum: With the relatively small amount of time involved, the costs often will be less than a lengthier process.
Potential Drawbacks of Mediation
- Hardened positions: In reality, parties often enter into mediation after litigation has begun. This means that their positions may have hardened making agreement more difficult.
- Fairness: One of the parties may not have as much experience as the other party. For instance, if the case involves complicated finances, both parties may be willing to agree, however the person with more experience may have an advantage. Since mediators are neutral, they cannot give legal advice to either party. If the attorneys are not present, the agreement may not be as fair as it could be.
- Agreement may come too quickly: When mediation is scheduled and held in one day, there is pressure on both parties to agree quickly. Parties having “second thoughts” after mediation has concluded may find it difficult to resolve those issues.