Custody Mediation in North Carolina
Written by: Kaitlin Romanelli Myers, Esq.
North Carolina requires parents and parties to attend court ordered custody mediation before they can have a hearing regarding custody.
If parents cannot come to an agreement regarding custody on their own, they will have to attend custody mediation. There are limited circumstances in which this can be waived, generally waiver occurs when there is domestic violence involved or “good cause” can be shown. However, most cases go through the mediation process.
Custody mediation occurs through the Custody Mediation Program, which is a two step process. Both parents must first participate in an orientation class. Currently, in Buncombe County and many other counties, this is done virtually using ZOOM. The mediation orientation lasts approximately two (2) hours and contains a video that lays out the process. The mediator will report back to the court which parties attended orientation.
After both parents have attended the orientation, the mediator will schedule a mediation session. The mediation is parents/parties only. This means that only parties to the custody action may attend.
The mediator is present and guides the parties through the process to see if an agreement can be reached as to custody. The mediator acts as a go-between and is neutral to both sides to keep the process as civil as possible. The mediator serves to facilitate the conversation, identify issues, and suggest remedies/solutions. The mediator does not make any decisions regarding custody.
If the process is not progressing productively, or if the parties cannot be civil, the mediator has the right to end the session. The mediator will only report to the court who attended and whether or not an agreement was reached. The conversations in mediation cannot be used as evidence in a later hearing.
If mediation is successful, a Parenting Agreement will be drafted. A Parenting Agreement can be a full or partial agreement, which lays out what the parties specifically agreed to. Once the agreement is drafted the parents then have an opportunity to discuss the mediated agreement with their attorney, if they have one, before signing.
Parents have the right to request changes, and if the other parent agrees, it will be added to the agreement. If a final resolution is reached, both parents will send in their signature and a Judge will sign the final order.
Either parent can change their mind and decide not to sign the agreement. In that case, the mediator reports back to the court that no agreement is reached and then the parties may proceed to a custody hearing before the court.
The family law attorneys at Hall, Booth, Smith, P.C. are here to help you through the mediation process and any subsequent trials. If you have questions about custody of your child, or child custody mediation, you should consult with an attorney to discuss the specific facts and what to expect in negotiating or litigating custody. If you have a custody matter in Asheville or the surrounding areas, you can call 828-232-4481.