The Advantages of Negotiating a South Carolina Divorce Agreement in Mediation
Mediation is an alternative form of dispute resolution which is growing in popularity because of its many advantages over traditional courtroom litigation to resolve divorce cases. South Carolina now requires mediation in most family court cases before a trial can be scheduled.
Although most marriage vows include the phrase “until death do us part,” statistics show that less than 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. will actually last that long. Unfortunately, divorce has become much more commonplace than at any other time in history – both in South Carolina and across the nation.
As a result of this surge in separations, mediation and other alternative forms of dispute resolution have grown in popularity as a way for people to exert more control over the outcomes of their court cases. While traditional courtroom litigation is always an option for couples choosing to divorce, the mediation process now required by the South Carolina Family Court may be a great option for those who either don’t want to litigate in court or simply can’t afford to do so.
How Does Family Court Mediation Work?
Mediation offers divorcing couples a way to civilly discuss all the issues surrounding the end of their marriage, including child custody and visitation, equitable distribution of the marital assets and debts, alimony and other support issues, and the payment of attorney or expert fees. When a divorce is litigated in court, the judge is the ultimate “decider” of what the divorce order will include, whereas mediation allows the divorcing couple to be in control of what their agreement includes or doesn’t include.
Mediation sessions usually take place in an attorney’s office under the guidance and direction of a chosen professional mediator. We always recommend that our clients select either certified Family Court mediators or retired Family Court judges to ensure the best success rates for each mediation session.
Mediators aren’t allowed to give legal advice to either party, but experienced family court mediators can offer some insight into what might happen at trial if the couple is not able to reach a full resolution of their case through the mediation process. This can be very helpful for divorce clients as they make decisions about which issues on which they may or may not want to compromise.
What Are the Advantages of Mediation for Divorce Clients?
According to the American Bar Association, there are several advantages to choosing mediation over a traditional courtroom litigated divorce, including:
- The mediation process tends to be more affordable for many clients and it offers clients the ability to customize their divorce settlement.
- Generally, the mediation process is a quicker way to create a full divorce settlement, as many couples can reach a full agreement after just one or two mediation sessions, depending on the complexity of the issues in their case.
- Mediation sessions take place in a relaxed and non-confrontational atmosphere. Our clients tell us that this often results in less stress and anxiety for them and allows them to focus on creative solutions to resolve the case to everyone’s satisfaction.
- At the end of the day, people are generally more likely to follow a divorce order that they have helped create, which leads to lower legal bills post-divorce.
How Can My Attorney Help During the Mediation Process?
Whether you are ordered to participate in the mediation process or you choose to try it as a first step in your divorce process, an experienced South Carolina family court attorney is an essential partner in any divorce. A lawyer can offer personalized representation to ensure you get everything that you are entitled to during the divorce process according to the facts of your case and how South Carolina case law applies to those facts. Rather than attempt to make these crucial decisions on your own, it’s always best to have experienced legal counsel attend mediation with you to help guide your decisions.
How has the Mediation Process Changed Since COVID-19?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it’s important to note that mediations have, in many ways, become the preferred method of handling case resolutions, especially in light of court closures and limited access to hearings which have caused lengthy delays in many family court cases. Mediators have developed safe ways to conduct both virtual and in-person mediations across South Carolina, and many report they have seen an increase in amicable resolutions following mediations.
Further, since mediations are being handled virtually on a broader scale, litigants are no longer bound by local geography when choosing a well-qualified mediator. Some of the best mediators in South Carolina are now conducting remote mediations for cases in cities and counties they typically did not practice prior to the pandemic.
Ben Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. He and his team are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to let us know how we can help you.
Author: J. Benjamin Stevens
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from the charlotte observer and Mike Hunter.
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