Mandatory Mediation

The process of mediation offers both parties the opportunity to engage in productive discussions through a third-party mediator.

A Family Law roadmap would fail miserably if it did not have a "subdivision" for Mandatory Mediation. 

It’s old news to some, but if you currently are going through a divorce or child custody matter, the term mandatory mediation may be new news to you.  By Order of the South Carolina Supreme Court, divorce and child custody cases filed on or after June 1, 2013 in Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union Counties are subject to mandatory mediation. 

  • So, what is mediation? 
    • Mediation is a legal process by which parties to a legal action have the opportunity to present each side’s issues to a third-party, the mediator, who discusses those concerns with each side in an attempt to help the parties resolve their dispute outside of court. 
    • On the date of mediation, both parties meet at a specific place, which is usually at the mediator’s office or at the office of either of the parties’ attorney. 
    • The mediator, all the parties and their attorneys are present throughout the entire mediation. 
    • Both parties must be in full agreement for the mediation to be considered successful and for the matter to be resolved. 
    • Once mediation is complete, the mediator issues a report.  The parties’ attorneys then coordinate on the drafting of the mediated agreement, and the agreement is then presented the Family Court for approval. 
  • What are some advantages to mediation?
    • If mediation is successful, the parties leave a mediation with the legal dispute resolved. 
    • As a result of successful mediation, the parties do not need to pursue trial and will avoid having to go through the added time and expenses involved with trial preparation and proceedings. 
    • The parties reach an agreement through mediation that is on terms to which each has agreed, rather than leaving the issues unresolved and in the hands of the presiding judge to determine the outcome at trial. 
    • Even if the mediation reaches impasse (the parties are unable to reach an agreement and have all issues mediated), the parties leave with a better understanding of the main concerns of each side.
    • The conversations that occur at a mediation are privileged.   
  • What are some disadvantages to mediation?
    • Mediation is an additional cost in the process.  The mediator charges an hourly rate for his/her preparation and the time spent in the mediation itself.  And, the parties’ attorneys’ time in preparing for and attending the mediation are expenses as well. 
    • If the mediation is unsuccessful, it is considered to reach impasse and the parties move on to the pretrial and trial phase.

Ultimately, mandatory mediation is not only a necessary step in a contested case’s process, but it can also prove to be an extremely helpful and efficient step in a divorce or child custody proceeding.