Divorce is difficult and can be taxing, both financially and emotionally. When many people think about divorce, it is in terms of the traditional, adversarial courtroom divorce. However, there is an alternative. Disputes ranging from child custody, spousal support, and the equitable division of marital assets and debts can be negotiated outside the courtroom through a process called divorce mediation. Mediation is an alternative form of dispute resolution, which is growing in popularity because of its many advantages over traditional courtroom litigation.
Nearly every South Carolina county, including Horry County, mandates that all divorcing couples attempt to resolve contested divorce issues through mediation before a family court will schedule a case for trial. Mediation in South Carolina is a process where a neutral third-party, the mediator, works with couples to facilitate settlement discussions and resolutions.
Advantages of mediation
According to the American Bar Association, divorce mediation has several benefits over a traditionally litigated divorce, including:
- A divorce case litigated through trial can drag out for months or even years and have unpredictably high costs. Because couples usually reach an agreement more quickly, mediation is less expensive than going to court.
- With litigation, the details of divorce are public record. All meetings and negotiations are strictly confidential. Anything said during mediation cannot be used as evidence against parties if a case goes to court.
- Parties maintain control over the divorce settlement in terms of process and outcome. Mediation’s collaborative nature allows for couples to make decisions together on key issues instead of leaving it to a presiding judge. This allows for a win-win resolution for both parties.
- Divorce is an extremely stressful process. However, mediation strives for an amicable arrangement which serves both parties. It can help ease the burden of divorce since couples are encouraged to work together to reach an agreement, rather than taking the dispute to a contentious courtroom.
One of the key elements to successful divorce mediation is finding the right mediator. The mediator does not advocate for either party, and they do not provide legal advice. But what they can do is help couples understand what could happen if the case goes to trial and the judge presides over contested issues.