Mediation and arbitration are known as alternative dispute resolution methods because they are alternatives to filing a lawsuit to resolve outstanding marital claims between the parties.
Mediation is less costly, stressful and time consuming than trying your case in court and in almost all situations involving separation and divorce, mediation is required before the full hearing on your claims. Other positive aspects of mediation are that the parties remain in control of the outcome of the custody of their children and the finalization of their finances when they can resolve these issues in mediation and they also are able to keep many private details of their families’ life out of public records.
Generally there are two types of mandatory mediation for family law matters in North Carolina:
- Custody Mediation
- Family Financial Mediation
In most cases, they are held after a lawsuit has been filed but the parties can always agree to mediate these issues prior to filing any lawsuit in an effort to resolve these matters without the necessity of court involvement.
In mediation, the mediator works with the parties in an effort to help them arrive at their own settlement. The mediator cannot “make” the parties settle their claims. On the other hand, an Arbitrator is listens to evidence and argument of the parties and their counsel and at the conclusion of the evidence and testimony, the Arbitrator makes a decision about each of the issues presented for arbitration. In North Carolina, arbitration can be binding on the parties or it can be non-binding.
Advantages of using the arbitration process over the traditional “trial” process is that with an arbitration, you know when your “hearing” date will be. This means that you will only have to pay your attorney to prepare one time and it also means that you will only have to emotionally prepare one time. This is generally not the case with matters scheduled before the court. Because the court’s calendar is so full, in many counties, it may take several settings before an individual’s case is actually reached by the Court. Another advantage of Arbitration over a traditional court hearing is that arbitration is a private procedure so any testimony or evidence that is presented is presented in a private setting rather than in a courtroom that is open to the public.