I frequently get asked about mediation.  What is it?  What does it cost? How can I get my spouse to mediate? What happens in a mediation? Let’s explore these issues in the context of a North Carolina divorce case.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a dispute settlement process wherein a neutral person (the mediator) seeks to find areas of compromise between the sides in a case on the issues brought to mediation.  For example, in a child custody case where the parents can’t agree on how to share custody, the mediator tries to get the parties to recognize the benefits of settlement, the risks of letting a judge make a decision, and explore the areas of common ground.   A mediator is not a judge and will not make a decision; the mediator works as a facilitator.  Unlike a court case, which is public record, the mediation process is confidential.

What does Mediation Cost?

In Wake County, a private mediator for a family law case will be in the range of $225 per hour (sometimes more, sometimes a little less).  A successful mediation can occur in anything from a couple of hours to all day.  It depends on the complexity of the issues and the positions of the parties. A successful mediation is almost always less costly than litigation.  Furthermore, the cost of the private mediator is usually split equally between the husband and wife.

How Can I get My Spouse to Mediate?

If you have an attorney, talk to him or her about mediation and have them make a proposal to mediate the case.   Usually all you have to do is ask.  Plant the seed that you want to resolve your differences amicably and without the cost and stress of litigation.

What Happens in a Mediation?

They usually go something like this:

  • You arrive at the mediator’s office and meet your lawyer there.
  • You might arrive a little early to review last-minute matters (you and your lawyer should have mostly prepared prior to the mediation).
  • The mediator will do an introductory session, explain what will happen, and have you sign the mediation contract if you have not already.
  • The process will begin with the mediator talking to each side and understanding what the issues are.
  • Once the mediator gets an idea of the issues, he or she will start carrying proposals back and forth.  The goal is to narrow issues and get to compromise.
  • A good mediator will explore options and avenues for compromise.
  • A good mediator listens to understand what the issues are and makes each side feel like they are being heard.
  • These efforts will continue as long as progress is being made.
  • If successful, the parties will sign an agreement at the conclusion of the mediation.


Scott Allen is a trained mediator and divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC with over nineteen years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement.  He can be reached at 919.863.4183.