The Family Financial Settlement Program was established to assist separating couples in resolving financial disputes. Couples ordered to the program will likely be required to participate in mediation. During mediation, they will sit down with their attorneys and a mediator to discuss issues of property and debt division, child support and alimony and to consider ways to resolve these issues. The mediator is not a judge and will not make decisions for the parties. Instead, the mediator will function as a facilitator and referee, working to help the parties develop and refine their own agreement. If the parties can settle their disputes, their litigation will conclude and they will be spared the time and stress involved in protracted legal proceedings and trial. The parties will also have eliminated the inherent risk involved in litigation and assured themselves of an outcome that they find mutually acceptable and that meets some, if not all, of their needs. In addition to mediation, the Family Financial Settlement Program allows parties to agree to use other settlement alternatives, including early neutral evaluation and where authorized in a district, judicial settlement conferences.
Need for the Program Under the best of circumstances, separation and divorce are difficult. Over the past few years, courts across our country have increasingly examined the role they play in the dissolution of marriages. In particular, the adversarial nature of divorce litigation and trial have been called into question. Courts have been and are continuing to look for ways to soften the blow of divorce. In North Carolina, our courts have been a leader in offering dispute resolution alternatives to protracted litigation and trial. In the family arena, mediation and other settlement procedures are available to assist couples involved in financial disputes. The alternative procedures do not pit one spouse against another, but instead offer parties the opportunity and support they need to settle their disputes themselves.
Information for Parties without Attorneys If you will be participating in a mediation without an attorney, please be aware that while the mediator will do his or her best to ensure a civil and full discussion of the issues, s/he cannot give legal advice to anyone participating in the conference.
Caseload statistics for the district court Family Financial Settlement (FFS) Program are archived here by fiscal year (July 1-June 30). The numbers are reported both by individual judicial district and by statewide totals.