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In North Carolina, many couples choose to work out the separation and divorce issues without court interference. Obtaining an uncontested divorce helps couples move forward more quickly and with less expense. However, if you and your spouse cannot agree on your separation or divorce agreements, you may attend mediation with a neutral 3rd party. This mediation may make it possible to work through the sticking points you both have. Mediation is an arrangement where you negotiate and resolve family issues for your final divorce agreement.

What is Mediation?

Under the Collaborative Law Act in 2018, two parties can agree to use the collaborative legal process to reach common goals and outcomes for their issues regarding children, property, etc.

Mediation is one of the processes couples can choose when they can’t work out their issues on their own. If you have trouble communicating, mediation allows a third party to guide your separation or divorce negotiations with your spouse. In mediation, a trained specialist, who is not on anyone’s side, listens and helps you hear each other. 

A good mediation specialist will help you find ways to agree. Together, you can create a memorandum of understanding to establish terms from the mediation sessions that will ultimately go into the final divorce and custody agreements.

Mediation Can Help You Get An “Easy” Divorce

An uncontested divorce can be easier and less expensive than taking your battles into the courtroom for a judge to rule on. However, if you can’t agree on the issues, you may need a bit of help. It is vital to work out many issues before filing for divorce. If you don’t fight for your rights now, you can lose them once you agree to an absolute divorce in NC.

If you choose to write up a legal separation agreement together, you can include child custody and visitation issues, financial matters, property issues, etc. The agreed-upon terms of your separation agreement often flow directly into your settlement agreement in your divorce proceedings. 

A divorce agreement is more than just breaking up with someone. It is a legally binding contract you will live with for the rest of your life. As a legal document, it overrides your marriage contract and sets new legal precedents for your future.

It is essential to look at many legal factors before filing for divorce or signing a divorce contract. Going to mediation with a 3rd party who can help you both see each other’s perspective can make all the difference in achieving a healthy agreement for all concerned.  

Mediation Checklist: Discuss And Settle These Issues 

Child Custody

You’ll need to find the answers to these questions with your spouse:

  • Will you equally share care and living arrangements with your children?
  • How much time with each parent will each child spend?

The “best interests of the child” are the basis for decisions in a child custody case. A parent’s marital issues do not affect child custody unless their problems affect the child negatively. If your case goes to court, a judge may look at many factors when making custody decisions, including:

  • Parental living arrangements
  • Parental ability to care for the child
  • Child’s relationship with each parent 
  • Factors affecting the welfare of the child

Visitation

You’ll need to settle how child visitation will work if one spouse has sole custody. If you need sole custody, be sure to bring any proof or other documents to show how the other parent endangers the children. Police records, driving records, recorded conversations, threatening texts or emails, letters from a counselor or psychiatrist.

  • When and how will a spouse see the children? 
  • Where will you meet up to exchange them? 
  • Are there acceptable reasons why you may agree to change the terms occasionally?
  • Are there any rules or special needs that you would like to include in the paperwork for you both to abide by?

For example, if your spouse uses drugs, you may insist upon supervised visitation. Or, if you have a child with special needs who attends occupational therapy appointments, you may want to include requirements for showing up to sessions if your spouse is unreliable.

Child Support

Will one parent pay child support to the other? You can use NC Courts Guidelines as a starting place for this discussion. 

Alimony

Will one spouse pay alimony to the other?

Marital Property Division Paperwork

  • Bring organized files with information about any financial assets either of you owns. Include Pensions
  • Trust funds
  • Joint and solely owned bank accounts
  • Retirement plans
  • Life insurance policies
  • Property deeds
  • Burial Trusts
  • Appraisals of valuable property such as jewelry or art
  • Proof of any financial debts or obligations by either of you

You must work through the financial asset issues with your spouse before the divorce. Your agreements must be in writing in the divorce proceeding for them to apply legally. A verbal agreement from a spouse is not enough to ensure your retirement savings. Any debts you or your spouse owe to a creditor must also go through negotiation. After the divorce, whoever’s name is on the account is on the hook. 

Make sure to specify in your final agreements who the beneficiaries and owners are for each account. Consider any previously written wills or estate planning documents and ensure that your spouse will be legally required to adhere to the agreements you make verbally in mediation. 

A large part of divorce is negotiating property ownership with your spouse. Your mediation specialist can help you agree about property such as cars, houses, boats, furniture, or other items in your home. With help, you can both find ways to move forward with your uncontested divorce.

What If Mediation is Not Enough?

If you and your spouse cannot agree on the issues you are trying to work through during mediation, you have other options for help. An uncontested divorce puts you and your spouse in the driver’s seat rather than a judge. If you both still want to work through your issues without extra court fees and appearances, there are other possibilities to resolve domestic legal issues. Consider the following to help clear up your differences. 

Binding Legal Arbitration

Binding legal arbitration is like mediation, where a third party is involved in the communication process and establishment of terms. However, if you can’t reach final agreements with the arbitration, the arbitrator makes the final legal decisions.

Negotiation

If you both have divorce attorneys, a negotiation process between the attorneys may work for you both. This process keeps the matter out of court. Communication is at a distance between the clients and their divorce attorneys.

We Can Help

At Plekan Law, we work with you to make the divorce process as easy as possible with the least financial outlay. We understand how difficult it is to step back from the emotional aspects of the divorce process, but we help you focus on the issues. We also help you prepare for any mediation proceedings so that your voice may be heard. As we walk you through each task and negotiation, you can begin to focus on what’s important: moving forward and finding yourself again. Contact us and find out how we can help you. 

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