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Give Mediation a Chance

Dear Carolyn,

I have a two-year-old and a five-year-old, and I am separated from their Father.  I am filing for custody and divorce.  I hear I am going to have to go to mediation with the Father, and I really don’t want to see him. I am not exactly afraid of him, but it sure is unpleasant being around him.  Do I have to go to mediation, really?

Curious

Dear Curious,

You are likely going to have to go to a court ordered session of mediation to see if you can settle custody and visitation of your children with their Father.  Hopefully, the mediation process will end with a settlement and improve the situation with the children’s Father.  Do not worry as you will not

Mediation was added by the legislature to the custody statutes with five aspirational goals: (1) reducing acrimony; (2) developing custody solutions in the best interests of children; (3) providing parents with informed choices; (4) providing a structured, confidential and cooperative facility for discussion of co-parenting; and (5) reducing litigation and litigation of custody cases.

The court can waive mediation in rare instances, but you are not presenting the facts in your question that would allow a judge to likely waive mediation.  Let’s face it:  you don’t like the Father, and most people who are getting a divorce don’t like the other person anymore and that is why you are getting a divorce.

However, there are several reasons under the law that mediation might be waived by the judge.  The statute (North Carolina General Statutes 50-13.1(c)) lists several reasons the judge might waive custody mediation. The judge is not limited to these reasons, but most judges are not going to waive mediation without a very, very good reason.  The statutory reasons are as follows: serious hardship to a party, voluntary mediation outside of the court mediation process, allegations of abuse or neglect of the children in question, allegations of alcoholism or drug abuse, domestic violence, and allegations of severe psychological or psychiatric problems.   Finally, the statute suggests that the court may waive mediation if a parent lives more than fifty miles from the court, but practically speaking in Guilford County, mediations are being held by telephone, in these cases.

I urge you to go to mediation and make the best of it for your children.