In South Carolina anyone can help you mediate your divorce. Couples can use informal mediators or certified mediators to help them address their issues and reach an agreement.
There is no requirement that you use a certified mediator to help you reach your agreement. I’ve seen couples who used friends and family members as informal mediators. I also seen couples who gotten help from pastors, Sunday School teachers, ministers and others from their church. And, I’ve seen couples who used mental health providers such as counselors and therapists that they were comfortable with. All of these options have worked in the past and will work again in the future.
While you are not required to use a certified mediator, there are benefits to using one.
- Certified mediators have been trained to help couples work through difficult issues. In almost every divorce there are one or two issues that are the most difficult to resolve. In some divorces it is how to handle custody and visitation. In others it is the financial issues. Regardless of what the difficult issue is, if it is not resolved it is almost impossible to reach a full agreement and avoid a contested divorce in Family Court. Certified mediators have training in how to handle those difficult issues.
- Certified mediators have experience with divorcing couples and the problems they face. To become a certified mediator in South Carolina, a person has to meet the requirements set by the South Carolina Board of Arbitrator and Mediator Certification. These requirements insure that the mediator has some experience working with divorcing couples. That experience is necessary for the mediator to be able to identify issues that have to be resolved, suggest possible solutions to problems and make sure the agreement which is reached is actually workable.
- Certified mediators are impartial. Certified mediators are prohibited from taking one side or the other. In helping a couple work out an agreement, they will point out the strong points and weak points of both sides. They may even express an opinion on different possible solutions. But, they are not allowed to advocate or fight for one side or they other. They are neutral and have no allegiance to one spouse or the other. Their job is to help you reach an agreement, not to push their own agenda. It is often difficult to find an informal mediator that both spouses agree does not have a bias or preference one way or the other.
Certified mediators receive their certifications from the South Carolina Board of Arbitrator and Mediator Certification. This board is an arm of the South Carolina Bar Association. They oversee the certification process and see that anyone seeking cerification meets the requirements for certification. A mediator must be certified before a Family Court Judge can appoint them as a mediator in an ongoing lawsuit.
The requirements for certification as a Family Court mediator are found in Rule 15 of the South Carolina Court-Annexed Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules. A Certified Family Court Mediator must be either a lawyer or a licensed mental health professional and they must have completed at least 40 hours of training in conducting mediations.
While you are not required to use a Certified Family Court Mediator, a professional’s certification is a good indication that they have the experience, knowledge and training to be a good mediator and to help you resolve any disagreements with your spouse.