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Mediation Requirements in North Carolina Child Custody


Maginnis Howard no longer practices family law. This blog is for informational purposes only.

The courts in North Carolina are required to refer all contested child custody or visitation cases to mediation. This requirement has become critical in family law cases, particularly in Wake County.

Along with child custody and visitation cases, motions for contempt, modifications to existing orders, must also be mediated. Child support and alimony are among the family law issues do not need to be referred to a North Carolina mediator.

The purpose of mediation is to:

  • Reduce possible acrimony between the parties;
  • Develop custody and visitation agreements that are in the best interest of the child;
  • Have informed and responsible decisions and choices regarding child custody and visitation;
  • Provide a structured, confidential, and non-adversarial setting to resolve custody and visitation disputes as amicably as possible; and
  • Reduce litigation and re-litigation of custody and visitation disputes.

In Raleigh and other Wake County towns, mediation proceedings are confidential and conducted in a private setting. Any verbal and written communications that occur in the mediation proceedings are privileged and inadmissible in court except in cases of fraud, abuse, or neglect. The mediator is trained to assess the needs and interests of the child and make suggestions to both parties as to what is in the best interest of the child. Occasionally, the Wake County mediator may interview the child or other third-party person not involved in the mediation.

If an agreement is reached between the parties during mediation, it shall be put in writing, signed by the parties, and submitted to the court as soon as possible. This agreement is known as a “parenting agreement.” The submitted parenting agreement will then be incorporated by the court and will become an enforceable court order. If a party wants the parenting agreement to be modified, it must first be submitted to mediation.

Having an attorney present in all child custody disputes, including mediation and court settings, is very important.