One of the emerging trends in Family Law is the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR. ADR arose from dissatisfaction among judges and lawyers regarding the length of time it took to resolve many Family Court cases and the types of resolutions that were had. The ever increasing demand for court time overwhelmed dockets and judges, meaning that parties were waiting months or years to get a resolution of their cases. When the time for those resolutions came, judges were forced to make decisions based upon the limited information that could be brought out on the witness stand. These results were dissatisfying to all involved in the action. As a result, South Carolina adopted a form of ADR called mediation to address these problems.
Mediation is a process whereby the parties (husband and wife or parents most typically) will meet with a neutral third party called a mediator. With the mediator’s assistance, the parties themselves attempt to resolve their differences through negotiation. More often than not, the attorney for each party will also participate in the process. The mediator’s role is not to make any decision regarding the parties’ disputes; rather, the mediator is there to help the parties work thru their differences by exploring all possible options (especially ones the parties may not have thought of). Many cases settle during mediation and the process allows the parties to maintain complete control over their disputes as opposed to submitting the matter to the Court. Through mediation, the parties can often accomplish and craft agreements that the Court would not be able to put in place.
Because the parties are the key players in any mediation, the outcomes are personal to them and based upon all the information they know. This is a stark contrast to an order handed down by a judge with limited knowledge. Successful mediation therefore tends to be more satisfying and meaningful to all parties involved.
All information obtained during mediation is confidential and the mediator cannot disclose confidential information which either party requests to remain undisclosed. Because it is confidential, nothing is at risk, and the parties are free to explore every option. Given this, it is crucial to have an attorney who is well versed in the mediation process to help prepare and advise you thru this process.
Mediation is now mandatory in many counties in South Carolina and North Carolina. In South Carolina, mediated agreements still need to be approved by the Court in most instances and the Court will generally approve mediated agreements even if the Court could not otherwise order the same agreement reached by the parties.
Our attorneys have years of experience with the mediation process. Mr. Tucker and Mr. Lemel have both received training by the State of South Carolina to be mediators. Both are sought out by other attorneys in the community to serve as mediators in cases based upon their experience and knowledge. Our firm has readily adapted to the emergence of mediation and is comfortable both advising our clients and conducting mediations.