Mediation is the most common way to resolve conflicts and disputes between spouses, but it is often viewed with confusion. Mediation is a way for you and your spouse to work out what the issues are, and come to agreement on them. Mediators are people who are professionally trained to resolve disagreements, like psychologists, counselors, lawyers, and clergy.
It is very important to understand that mediators are not legal advisers and therefore cannot give you legal advice. They do not take the place of a lawyer. Mediators help both you and your spouse talk to each other and come to an agreement. Lawyers protect your legal rights.
Mediation is not as expensive as filing a lawsuit and is confidential. Also, you and your spouse get to make the decisions. You can come to an agreement that is positive and customized to you, which you are not guaranteed with a judge. With mediation, you pay your attorney’s fees, and half of the mediator’s fees. Certain states require mediation when a lawsuit is filed. North Carolina, for example, requires mediation in child custody trials and equitable distribution trials.
Another option is arbitration. This option involves a neutral third-party called an arbitrator. The arbitrator acts as a judge, hearing testimony and evidence, and issues a final binding decision. It can be useful if the parties reached an impasse in mediation or negotiations. While similar to a trial, the process can be a lot less painful and allows the parties to avoid the expense of preparing and participating in trial. However, as with trial, the parties lose complete control of the outcome of the divorce.