Mediation and Arbitration
Family law and divorce attorneys in Guilford County spend a portion of their practice in mediation and/or arbitration. Certain lawyers have special training in mediation and/or arbitration, which may be useful to your case. Outside of the typical mediation and/or arbitration, your lawyer can negotiate a settlement with the opposing counsel, with your approval. This may be especially useful in cases where the parties are dealing with many volatile issues, where tempers may flare.
However, sometimes a lawyer mediator can facilitate a settlement by bringing all parties together with their lawyers in a conference room for an open discussion of the issue(s). Your lawyer will protect your interests and make sure you do not agree to something unfair under the law. The opposing lawyer will do the same thing for your spouse. Therefore, it is still important to have an experienced family law attorney at your side during the mediation, even though a lawyer mediator is present. The mediator lawyer facilitates communication but does not represent you or give advice. (It is unethical in North Carolina for one attorney to represent the interests of both you and your spouse because your interests are not the same.)
Mediation is not binding unless an agreement (or a consent court order) is properly documented. The results of a mediation must be written down in an agreement by your attorney (who represents your interests) and your spouse's attorney (who represents your spouse's interests). After the wording is satisfactory, then you and your spouse sign the agreement before a notary in the offices of your respective attorneys. THEN, and only then, are you bound legally. Without the written agreement that has been signed by both parties and notarized, the results of the mediation are not legally binding on either party. If the documentation is a consent court order, a judge must also sign the document and the document must be entered by the Court and filed with the Clerk’s office.
Sometimes, a mediation can be turned into a binding arbitration. This is the major difference between a mediation and an arbitration. You are not bound by the results of the mediation until you and your spouse sign the agreement in front of a notary (or the judge signs the consent order). In an arbitration, you are bound by the decision of the arbitrator; there is no fine-tuning of an agreement after the fact to make sure that everyone agrees. In an arbitration, the arbitrator has the final say and makes the final decision. Ask your attorney if you are interested in this option.
As you can probably tell from the information provided above, a mediation is a more flexible option, especially in a field like family law where there are a lot of personal issues to be decided. Both mediation and arbitration are seen as less expensive alternatives to litigation. These methods can help you and your spouse come to an agreement on contentious issues without having to involve a judge. The mediator acts as a facilitator towards attaining such an agreement. Again, this is where mediation differs from arbitration – in arbitration, the arbitrator essentially acts as the judge.
The experienced family law and divorce attorneys here at Woodruff Family Law Group have helped many clients go through the process of mediation and/or arbitration. Our experience in this area makes our attorneys well-qualified to assist our clients through either mediation or arbitration.