In North Carolina mediation is required in various types of cases. In the context of Family Law, mediation is required in child custody claims and equitable distribution claims.
Mediation for child custody actions is done at no cost to the parties, at the courthouse, with an assigned mediator. Attorneys are not allowed to attend this mediation session with their client. The parties will meet with the mediator and discuss possible settlement options. Information disclosed or discussed in mediation as a part of settlement negotiations, is not admissible in court. However, this does not mean that the other party may not discuss this information with their attorney, leading to the issuance of Discovery (link) or Subpoenas (link) with regard to that information. However, if for example, a party offers to pay double the child support they’re required to pay if they can just have more time with the children, such a statement would not be admissible in court. Child custody mediation can be waived in some circumstances such as when there has been domestic violence between the parties, or when one party lives more than 50 miles from the court (however, all waivers are in the judge’s discretion).
Mediation for equitable distribution is done through a private mediator and the parties usually must split the cost equally. Attorneys attend this mediation with their clients and help facilitate the negotiations, and advise their clients throughout the process. As in mediation for child custody, discussions regarding settlement negotiations are not admissible in court. This mediation can be waived by a judge in very limited circumstances.
It can be extremely helpful to have an attorney to advise you before or during a mediation session as to your rights and the likely outcomes in court so that you have a grasp of what your negotiation points should be, and how hard you should push on certain issues.