In 2006, the South Carolina Supreme Court designated certain counties to participate in a pilot program requiring participants in contested divorce cases to attend mediation before continuing to trial. In January 2016, declaring this pilot program a success, the Court expanded it to all South Carolina counties. Thus, when you file for divorce in South Carolina, you can expect the court to refer your case to mediation. What is mediation, and how can it affect your case?
What Is Mediation?
Mediation offers you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse the opportunity to reach agreement on outstanding issues between you instead of allowing a judge to make those decisions. You and your spouse will meet with an independent, neutral facilitator who will help you arrive at an informed settlement. An article on Mediate.com explains that mediation can offer you a more cost-effective, less-stressful way to end your marriage than a long, drawn-out court battle. Its goal is to facilitate communication between you and your spouse and settle the conflict between you in a way that can help you work together as parents going forward.
Mediation can encompass a variety of issues, including:
- Property division;
- Spousal support;
- Child custody and support;
- Allocation of debts and obligations;
- Tax questions;
- Prenuptial agreements; and
- Grandparent visitation.
The mediator may meet with you and your spouse together or separately. On occasion, the mediator might also meet with attorneys for you and your spouse, or other parties as appropriate – for example, therapists, accountants, your children or other family members.
Do I Have to Mediate?
If you are ordered to mediation, your responsibility is to participate and attempt in good faith to reach an agreement. You do not give up any rights by participating in mediation, and the mediator cannot force you to agree to anything. Moreover, mediation is a confidential process and anything you say during mediation cannot later be used against you. Finally, mediation can be successful even if you only resolve some of the outstanding issues between you and your spouse. If, for example, you can agree on property distribution and spousal support, but cannot reach a compromise regarding child custody, you have still succeeded in speeding up your divorce and perhaps eliminating some of the rancor.
If I Go to Mediation, Do I Still Need an Attorney?
Yes, if you participate in mediation, it is still advisable to have your own attorney represent you. First, your attorney can advise you as to what result you might expect from a court decision and what requests in mediation might be reasonable. In some instances, you and your attorney may be able to meet with the mediator together. And you should always have your attorney review any potential agreement before it is finalized to make sure your rights are adequately protected.
Consult a Greenville Family Lawyer
If you or your spouse are contemplating divorce, it is wise to consult an experienced, compassionate Greenville, SC divorce lawyer. Attorney Robert Clark of Greenville Family Law is a lifelong resident of Greenville who focuses on guiding families through the thicket of family court. Contact Robert for a consultation today.