How to Set up Mediation for Child Custody in NC
Child custody cases can be emotionally challenging and complex, often leaving both parents and children feeling overwhelmed. In North Carolina, mediation is a process that can help parents resolve child custody disputes and create a parenting plan that is in the best interest of their children. This article will guide you through the steps of setting up mediation for child custody in NC, and answer some frequently asked questions about the process.
1. Understand the Importance of Mediation:
Mediation provides a neutral space for parents to communicate and reach an agreement regarding child custody. It allows parents to have control over the outcome, rather than leaving the decision to a judge.
2. Determine if Mediation is Required:
In North Carolina, mediation is required for child custody disputes before a case can go to trial. Exceptions may be made in cases of domestic violence or other extenuating circumstances.
3. Contact the Mediation Office:
To set up mediation, you need to contact the Mediation and Custody Recommending Counseling Office in your county. They will provide you with the necessary forms and information to proceed.
4. Complete the Required Forms:
Both parents must complete the appropriate forms provided by the Mediation Office. These forms gather essential information about each parent, the child, and the nature of the dispute.
5. Pay the Mediation Fee:
There is a fee associated with mediation, typically based on a sliding scale depending on income. The fee must be paid at the time of scheduling the mediation session.
6. Schedule the Mediation Session:
Once both parents have completed the forms and paid the fee, the Mediation Office will schedule a mediation session at a mutually convenient time. The session is typically held within 45 days of filing the forms.
7. Prepare for the Mediation Session:
Before the mediation session, gather any relevant documents, such as school records, medical records, or statements from witnesses, that can support your position during the negotiation process.
8. Attend the Mediation Session:
During the mediation session, a neutral third-party mediator will facilitate the conversation between the parents. The goal is to reach a mutually agreeable parenting plan that considers the best interests of the child.
9. Review and Finalize the Agreement:
If an agreement is reached during mediation, it will be put into writing and signed by both parents. The agreement will then be submitted to the court for approval. Once approved, it becomes a legally binding document.
1. What if the other parent refuses to attend mediation?
If the other parent refuses to attend mediation, you can request a court order to compel their participation.
2. Can I bring an attorney to mediation?
You have the right to bring an attorney to mediation, although it is not required. The attorney can provide legal advice and support during the negotiation process.
3. Will the mediator make decisions for us?
No, the mediator’s role is to facilitate communication and assist in reaching an agreement. They will not make decisions for you.
4. Can I request a different mediator?
If you believe the assigned mediator is not impartial or that there is a conflict of interest, you can request a different mediator from the Mediation Office.
5. What if I don’t agree with the proposed agreement?
If you cannot reach an agreement during mediation, the case may proceed to trial, where a judge will make a decision based on the evidence presented.
6. Can mediation be used for modifying an existing custody order?
Yes, mediation can be used to modify an existing custody order if both parents agree to participate.
7. Is mediation confidential?
Yes, mediation sessions are confidential, and what is discussed during the session cannot be used as evidence in court.
8. Can I bring a support person to mediation?
You may request to bring a support person to the mediation session; however, their role will be limited to providing emotional support and cannot actively participate in the negotiation process.
9. How long does the mediation process take?
The mediation process can vary in duration depending on the complexity of the case and the willingness of both parents to cooperate. On average, it can take several sessions over a few months to reach an agreement.
Mediation for child custody in North Carolina provides a constructive way for parents to resolve disputes and create a parenting plan that prioritizes the best interests of the child. By following the steps outlined above and understanding the FAQs, parents can navigate the mediation process successfully and work towards a mutually agreeable solution.