Family Court Mediation: How To Make Sure That Your Voice Is Heard.

Family Court Mediation resolves most disputes. Being properly prepared will assure that you have the best chance of reaching a settlement that works for your family. 

Rule 3 of the South Carolina Rules of Alternative Dispute states in pertinent part:

All … contested issues in domestic relations actions filed in family court … are subject to court ordered mediation under these rules unless the parties agree to conduct an arbitration.

As such, you will be attending mediation absent your ability to work out a divorce matter between you and your spouse. Here is what you need to know to ensure that you have the best chance of success in reaching a resolution that works for your family.

First, get the data. It is important that you and your spouse identify all of the issues where you disagree and that you each have shared the data supporting your position. For example, you may both disagree on whether a retirement account should be considered a marital asset, but you at least need to identify the account and the account balance. Once you have done this, you and your lawyer can then make the case in mediation regarding the separate nature of this asset.

Second, see a therapist regularly. I recommend that for at leas the week or two leading up to a mediation you work with a therapist weekly or bi weekly. A person engaged in the separation or divorce process is going through a traumatic, life changing event. People suffering from trauma often “develop panic attacks, depression, lack of or excessive appetite, and trouble sleeping. It is quite possible to develop attention problems, memory and concentration, also affecting their ability to study and/or work, and quality of life. They may feel confused and have trouble organizing their thoughts”.

As I work with my clients in preparing for, and participating in mediation, I need my clients to have clear thoughts and a stable mind in order to make rational decisions. An attorney is not qualified to help clients in this regard. A good therapist will help a client recognize their irrational fears so that they can focus on making rational decisions based on objective data in the mediation process.

Third, it is important that you create a vision of the future you desire for your family. This is something that you can do with with your therapist or attorney, or both. It is important that you have a post divorce vision regarding what you want your new life to look like: where you will live, what the parenting arrangements will look like, how your finances will be structured, what you will do with your time, etc. Holding a strong vision in your mind will provide you with the focus necessary to work with your lawyer to create plan of action that will guide your negotiations in mediation.

Finally, eat well and exercise. A strong body leads to a strong mind, and you will need both in mediation. Family Court Mediation is rough. You and your spouse will be in separate rooms with your attorneys, the process will start about 9:00 in the morning, and the mediator will be shuttling offers and counter offers back and forth until the matter is resolved or he calls an impasse. This process generally takes anywhere from 8 – 10 hours and possibly much longer, even spanning several days before reaching agreement. A person who is physically and mentally weak will not have the stamina to stick it out and negotiate an agreement that works for them and their family.

The mediation process is important because it will settle your family law case and set in place a new set of rules governing all relationships within your family. You need to be physically and emotionally prepared so that you are able to communicate clearly and rationally with your attorney and be fully engaged in the mediation process. If you do this, your chances of generating a settlement that is best for your family will be much greater.

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