Mediation is a conflict resolution process in which parties resolve their controversies arising out of their separation and/or divorce with the aid of a neutral and impartial third party, the mediator. This is an effective way for both parties to avoid the costs, time, bitterness and frustration which often results from prolonged court disputes.  Instead, the parties meet with the mediator and negotiate in a neutral setting, sitting face to face and discussing each party's interests and needs to create an agreement that both of them agree upon.  This allows the parties to determine the actual outcome instead of handing it over to a judge to decide for them.  Most importantly, the parties avoid losing control of their process by turning it over to the attorneys who are bound by the court rules to enter into protracted and expensive processes required by the Court. Instead the parties meet privately with the mediator, along with their separate attorneys if they desire, to discuss their issues, exchange any necessary information and create an agreement.   Parties can use mediation if they have already entered into the court process or even prior to ever initiating a lawsuit. 

The mediator listens to both parties and acts as a neutral to help the parties reach agreement.  The mediator does not offer legal advice, tell either party what is "right" or "wrong", or act as an attorney to either party.  Insetad, each party is free to seek advice from his or her own attorney, either in or outside of the actual mediation. 

The mediator provides a listening ear to both parties while making sure that the discussions are maintained respectful, orderly and with a goal of resolution, not destruction.   The mediation provides a "safe space" where parties can brainstorm openly to arrive at creative solutions without fear that their ideas will be used against them if the case is not resolved.   Therefore, the law protects the mediation "safe space" by allowing all negotiations and statements that may be made in the course of mediation tobe treated as privileged settlement discussions and are absolutely confidential and cannot be used by either party should they end up in Court. 

Mediation is a voluntary process.  While the goal of mediation is to arrive at a settlement agreement, either party may withdraw from mediation at any time.  If either party decides to end the mediation, the mediator will use her best efforts to discuss this decision with that party, either privately or with both parties depending on what is most productive.    Should the mediator determine that it is not possible to resolve the remaining issues through mediation, the mediator will terminate the process and communicate that to both parties.

Fortunately, most mediations result in a final agreement being reached.  That agreement will be memorialized in an enforceable document.  The mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding for signature of the parties and the mediator.  The parties can then take that document to their respective counsel to prepare any other formal legal documents that may be required for their case.  

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Gabriela J. Matthews
& Associates, P.A.
100 E. Parrish St., Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701

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Phone: (919) 956-7888 
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