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Ten Tips For Family Financial Mediation

Ten Tips For Family Financial Mediation

In NC family law, there is child custody mediation where parents try to reach an agreement after a lawsuit. There is also family financial mediation (FFM) by which parties attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement for the division of marital property, child support, and/or alimony. This article is about FFM. Mediators are neutral, and each party pays half his or her fees. They usually meet briefly with both clients and attorneys to introduce themselves and the process. Otherwise, you and your attorney will be in separate rooms of a law office during mediation. 


  1.  Think about attorney’s fees. When you can’t decide on whether to take (or make) an offer, ask your attorney for an estimate of the cost to litigate your case. Is the dispute worth spending $5,000 to $10,000 to go to court? It might be, but if you are arguing over $2,000.00 it won’t be.
  1. Stay open minded. There are always deal-breakers, but you’ll probably have more options if you approach case without the automatic frustration and expectation that it is a waste of time because the other party is unreasonable. 
  1. Don’t give them your “bottom line” too early. When you make an offer (or respond to the other side’s offer), leave yourself some wiggle-room. Although it is theoretically possible, I don’t ever see anyone accepting the first offer made, or even the first few.
  1. Trust your mediator’s suggestions. Mediation involves looking at things from a different perspective. A good mediator brings a fresh pair of eyes, making it easier to think outside the box. If the idea isn’t a good one, your attorney will tell you so.
  1. If you don’t understand something, or if you aren’t sure what you might be “agreeing” to, ask your attorney before and/or during the mediation. It is our job to answer questions but we don’t necessarily know you need an explanation unless you tell us. 
  1.  Make a list of questions/comments to bring with you. There is lots of down time because the mediator will shuttle back and forth between rooms, sometime for an hour at the time. Your attorney is on the clock, so you might as well make the most of it.
  1. Don’t be pressured. Whether to accept an offer is your decision, although your attorney will explain the process and give you advice. You’ll be the one who lives with any agreement you reach. It is your right to have a trial, and let the judge decide what to do.   
  1. If you have reached an agreement on some issues but not all issues, is there any reason you shouldn’t leave with a signed agreement on those matters? If you can walk away with a signed agreement for marital property but not for alimony, for example, consider it.
  1. Don’t get bogged down with what the other party is doing in the other room. Clients are sometimes concerned about what their ex is saying about them to the mediator. It doesn’t matter and it divides your attention when you need to be focused on your goals. If your ex brings someone with him or her to the mediation, ignore it.
  1. Don’t work yourself into a panic. This isn’t the courtroom. Being in a lawyer’s office during mediation in separate rooms is way more comfortable than being in court. Unlike the courtroom, you don’t have to look at your ex sitting in front of you. You can order lunch, take breaks, and have documents (or other information you need ASAP) e-mailed and printed. 


Amy A. Edwards is a family law attorney in Greenville, NC, certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist, and is licensed only in NC. Laws change. This article is current as of November 2016. www.AmyEdwardsFamilyLaw.com  © 2016. 

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