Success at Family Financial Mediation

By Carolyn J. Woodruff, JD, CPA, CVA

In North Carolina, divorce cases may have two kinds of mediation – 1) family financial mediation and 2) child custody mediation. This blog deals exclusively with the strategy for North Carolina family financial mediation. Other references at the end will direct you to other materials on child custody mediation and family financial mediation. This blog discusses strategic SUCCESS at family financial mediation.

Family Financial Mediation. For a refresher, the District Court orders family financial mediation in cases where equitable distribution (property division), child support, and spousal support (alimony) are pending before the court. In other words, you must go, and there is no choice. Your attorney accompanies you. (You can also do a voluntary mediation.) For the basics, see my video on YouTube named Family Law Mediation 101. The link will be in the references section below. Mediation is a negotiation. The mediator does not decide the case (that is arbitration).


Success is defined as achieving your goal or aim. I created an acronym for strategic success in family financial mediation. And, here goes:

S is for structuring a plan. Structure means give a design to your plan. I advise that you write down the top three goals of your mediation in order of priority. If keeping the house or business is first, the pension second, and the taxidermied boar’s head you killed on your honeymoon is third, then write these down in order of priority. In a negotiation, you need to know what is most important to you.

U is for your understanding. Understand the rules of mediation and the role of the mediator. The rules are relatively simple. If the mediation is court-ordered, you must participate until the mediation calls an impasse or until a settlement is reached. You can make confidential statements to the mediator, but you must designate the information as confidential. Otherwise, the mediator may use the comments to create a settlement. You have to pay half of the mediator’s fee. Mediators may seem to be on the other side as the devil’s advocate, but the mediator is doing this in both rooms. The mediator wins if he gets a settlement.

C is for consulting with your attorney ahead of time. Set at least one meeting with your attorney for preparation. I like to have a financial client set one appointment with a paralegal to get the basic spreadsheets for mediation ready and then schedule a second appointment with me to determine strategy, first offer, and reasonable objectives for the mediation. Sometimes, we determine the last offer and the strategy between getting from the first offer to the last offer.

C is for culling the negative thoughts out of your brain. Make an affirmative decision to believe that you will be okay and that the mediation will work. Be positive.

E is for eating and drinking water. The mediation may last the entire day. That is too long to go without eating and water. Your blood sugar could fail you. Food and water will be offered during the mediation. You can probably get sodas, coffee, and hot tea. Bring a snack you like with you. Partake, please. I have had too many clients say “I cannot eat” during a mediation, and at the end of the day – they were not as bright-eyed as at the beginning.

S is for sealing the deal or sleeping on it. If you reach a reasonable settlement that meets your top reasonable objective and as many more points as possible, you will be offered a chance to sign. Discuss whether you should sign with your attorney. If you have reasonable doubts, then sleep on it. Remember, the other side will likely sleep on it too, and you can lose your progress toward settling. However, it is best to wait if you feel there will be buyer’s remorse.

S is for stopping until another day. No one wants their mediation to be more than one day, but it happens. The larger the financial case, the more likely the mediation may take two or even three days to discuss and mediate all issues.

Believe that SUCCESS can be yours. Success is not guaranteed as it takes two to tango, but your preparation and attitude will control what you can control. You cannot control your ex, which you know.

Click on the Link Below for More Information

Best, until next time, Carolyn


Family Law Mediation 101 YouTube video