5 Secrets to a Successful Divorce Mediation

Raleigh Divorce Law Firm

How do you effectively prepare for and succeed in mediation in North Carolina Divorce cases? There are five simple strategies that can help you successfully tackle divorce related mediation.

First, lets consider briefly what mediation is in a North Carolina Divorce. North Carolina Divorce Law requires parties to participate in Mediated Settlement Conferences prior to going to trial in cases involving Equitable Distribution and Child Custody. As a Raleigh Divorce Lawyer since 1998, I have participated in more mediations than I can count, and I have learned what works and what doesn't.

Types of North Carolina Divorce Mediation

Let us look at the two types of mandatory divorce related mediation.

  1.  CHILD CUSTODY MEDIATION:  North Carolina child custody claims must be mediated by the parties before you actually have a permanent trial on custody. In Wake County, the mediation process involves two steps:
    • orientation where the parties watch a video and learn about custody disputes, and
    • later a mediation succession where each party meets with a county mediator who tries to assist the parties in coming up with an agreement

      Your Divorce Lawyer cannot attend mandatory custody mediation with you, so you must be prepared to negotiate this claim on your own. If you reach an agreement, the parties are given the opportunity to have their attorney review that agreement with them prior to signing.

  2. EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION MEDIATION:  Parties are required to attend a mediated settlement conference (or other approved alternative dispute resolution process) prior to going to trial for property division in North Carolina. Each client and their divorce attorney typically attends the mediation with the third party mediator. Mediators must be approved and credited by the NC State Bar, and in most cases are divorce lawyers from other family law firms hired by the parties. The parties can agree on which mediator to use, or one will be appointed for them by the Judge. The parties are required to pay the mediator, with the fee divided equally, so each party has an incentive not to waste time. In cases involving multiple issues, the parties will typically mediate all of their pending claims as well which can include alimony, child custody, child support, and attorney fees.


  1. Know your goals before you get there. It sounds simple but many people simply show up without knowing exactly what they want or having thought about how they would react to likely offers from their spouse. Define your "win" before hand. Consider what you are likely to hear from the other side, and plan how you are going to react to it.
  2. Build in bargaining room. At the end of the day, a mediation is simply a negotiation. The way our brains have been trained to compromise with someone is by seeing them compromise. If one party is not compromising, then we tend to not to compromise either. We see it as a sign that someone is being unreasonable. But what if the party not compromising came in with a reasonable offer that was more than fair? Studies show it really does not matter. For this reason, you better start off asking for more than you are willing to accept. This is where there is an art to negotiation. I like to assist my clients in preparing a dream settlement, meaning its more than they would ever expect to get, but it's what they really want. Then we prioritize the issues for our side and rank what we believe the other sides priorities are. Low priorities are conceded first, and sometimes I hold onto concessions for the opposing party that my client really does not mind giving up until later in the mediation. This will give the impression that the issue was important to our side and we are making a major concession and is likely to lead to a concession on their part. Yes, the process is a bit cynical, but so is the human mind, and if managed correctly you can negotiate a good settlement without being dishonest.
  3. Have a thorough custodial schedule planned out. Make sure you consider each holiday and school break carefully. Consider all the issues and problems you foresee and be prepared to deal with them in any agreement. Remember that if you do not bring the problem up at mediation, it will not be covered in the agreement.
  4. Know yourself. Are you passive or aggressive? Are you calm and reasonable or do you get worked up and angry? Some divorce lawyers make offers that will knowingly anger the other party to lower their expectations early on. Work very hard to prepare yourself to hear offers and statements that are not true or that are patently ridiculous and do your best not to be affected by them. Stick with the plan.
  5. Prepare yourself for pressure. Mediators want to settle cases. That is how they measure their success. Be prepared to be pressured by the mediator to settle or make concessions. There is nothing wrong with making concessions, and both parties have to make hard choices in order to settle. Just be prepared for it and if the issue you are being pressed on is very important to you, do not concede the point just to make other people happy. If you are people pleaser who hates conflict, consider making certain statements early on that make it clear that certain issues are off the table. It is also a good idea to take a break for five minutes before conceding major points.

Learn What Mediation Rights You Have by Contacting a Family Lawyer

Mediation, otherwise known as collaborative divorce, is process designed to help people settle disputes between themselves without having a Judge impose a settlement upon them. Settlement saves money, heartache, and in most cases involving children it results in a better agreement for parents. If you are facing a divorce or child custody dispute, contact a local divorce lawyer and learn more about your rights and how to prepare and succeed in divorce related mediation.

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