Mediation could offer an alternative
[Note: Please also see “Divorce in North Carolina.”]
Having addressed any domestic violence issues and budgeted for counseling needs, it’s time to become aware of the specifics of divorce in Mecklenburg County.
Family Court: ‘One family, one judge’
According to the North Carolina Court System’s Web site:
The Family Court Program in Mecklenburg County was created in June 1999 as a specialized court centered around the “One Family – One Judge” concept. The Family Court seeks to consolidate all legal issues involving the same family before one judge. The Family Court’s role is to provide a forum for resolving domestic disputes that emphasizes less-adversarial problem solving and encourages the use of available human service resources.
The Family Court has jurisdiction over all domestic, juvenile, domestic violence, and mental health commitment actions filed in Mecklenburg County. It refers or orders litigants to intervention services that are relevant to the issues that are before the court. These services help to remedy those family issues that create obstacles to resolving the case. Services may include parent education, mediation, counseling, psychological evaluation and testing, supervised visitation and exchange, and specialized services for children.
General information and referrals can also be obtained through the Court’s SelfServe Center.
Relevant phone numbers can be found here.
One helpful aspect of the site is its FAQ regarding mediation:
- What is mediation?
- How does the mediation program operate?
- Are there written agreements?
- Why is mediation helpful?
- Is mediation ever inappropriate?
- What does mediation cost?
- Is there a complaint procedure?
The county Bar Association explains more about mediation, specifically in regards to issues involving children:
If parents have not signed a separation agreement and no court action has been taken, both have equal rights to custody of their minor children. No written document is necessary for custody so long as both parents are satisfied with the arrangements they have made….
If the parents cannot agree on custody and visitation, they should see a private attorney or a private mediator. Once a lawsuit for custody is filed, mediation is available at no cost through the Custody/Visitation/Mediation Program of the Administrative Office of Courts, Criminal Courts Building, 700 East 4th Street, Suite 4407, Charlotte, NC 28202. Their telephone number is 704-347-7835. Private mediation services are also available and are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book.
The custody arrangements worked out with the mediator are not binding on either parent, unless they are made part of a court order. The mediation process is required before custody will be determined by a judge when both parents are residents of Mecklenburg County.
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