Mediation is a process where an impartial third party works with both sides to reach an agreement regarding their dispute. Meditation is not binding, meaning the mediator is not a judge in your case and he will not impose an agreement on either party. This process allows parties to identify issues and find possible solutions.

You might think that, if both sides are so firm in their positions that their dispute is going before a judge, then there’s no hope that negotiation will work out their differences. But the surprising fact is that mediation is very effective in many cases in reaching a compromise both sides can live with. And mediation is both cheaper and less intimidating that a court appearance.

Mediation and South Carolina Family Law

Mediation is mandatory in the vast majority of family court matters. For instance, if you are going through a divorce or a custody battle, you will be required to work with a mediator before you can have a trial. Mediation was optional for years, but after the success of mediation was recognized, South Carolina ultimately decided to require it if the parties cannot resolve their issues through settlement negotiations, before the matter can be set for trial. This has helped greatly to prevent court congestion from getting worse.

The process usually works like this:

  • Either the lawyers agree to a specific mediator, or the court orders one.
  • The lawyers will provide a summary and relevant documentation to the mediator for his review; this does not have to occur, but it helps speed the process along.
  • Typically, when mediation begins the parties are in separate rooms with their respective lawyers. The mediator will meet with each party to try to identify the issues and the point of view of each party. The mediator will then move back and forth between the parties delivering proposals. The mediator will work to try to identify on which issues the parties can agree and will try to ultimately reach an agreement on all matters before the court.

It’s important to remember that the mediator isn’t taking sides. That means you don’t have to worry that he will favor your spouse. He is neutral.

“But there is no way mediation can work in my case!”

We hear that a lot from clients, but you would be surprised. If both parties make a good-faith effort, some of the most difficult cases can be settled. Trial and continued litigation can be emotionally and financially exhausting. Mediation limits the participants to the parties, their lawyers, the guardian ad litem, and the mediator—no family members or friends allowed to interfere. Also, mediation is confidential and anything that comes out during mediation is inadmissible in trial. In other words you do not need to worry about the opposing lawyer saying in trial, “well, you were willing to do this in mediation, weren’t you?”

If you are going through a divorce or custody dispute and you would like to speak to the lawyers of Holland & Usry, please call us at 864.582.0146 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 to schedule your confidential consultation.


John Holland
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John Holland is a Spartanburg Family law attorney, practicing since 2012.
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