Georgia law requires all divorcing couples to go through mediation before they resort to a trial. While some divorce cases do wind up in court, the large majority can be settled in mediation — even the most contentious ones.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions our clients ask us about this process.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a non-adversarial dispute resolution process that occurs outside of court. During a mediation, a neutral third party (a mediator) facilitates a discussion between you and your spouse.
The mediator’s job is to help both parties agree on the terms of the separation, including child custody, division of assets, and other issues.
The process can vary depending on the mediator and the divorcing couple. However, usually it begins with everyone in the same room.
Your mediator will listen to each side’s position and explain what will happen next.
From there, your mediator will discuss things with both parties, negotiate sticking points, and help the conversation move forward.
This process can take as little as a few hours, or an entire day.
Does Mediation Work for People Who Can’t Agree?
One myth about mediation is that it’s only for people who more or less agree about the terms of their divorce. That’s not true.
The process is designed to help you come to an agreement, even when both parties disagree strongly at the outset.
Many of our clients come to us after weeks, months, or even years trying to come to terms with their spouse. We’ve seen clients like these come to an agreement in mediation many times.
There are reasons why mediation works so well.
Unlike in real life, where distractions abound, everyone in a mediation is focused on resolving disagreements. An impartial third-party mediator can help you break old patterns of communication and address issues in a more productive way.
In cases where the relationship between spouses is particularly strained, the mediator may separate the parties into different rooms. Then the mediator will go between rooms, discussing the details with both spouses separately, and presenting offers and counter-offers.
Do I Need My Own Lawyer During a Mediation?
It’s not required. However, we strongly feel that working with a lawyer is in your best interest.
While your mediator is an impartial third party, your lawyer is there to advocate for you.
A mediation is a negotiation process, and having a skilled negotiator on your side can be invaluable.
Although mediations are meant to be non-adversarial, it’s also important to present your case to the mediator in a convincing way.
An experienced lawyer will know exactly how to do this.
Your mediator won’t be allowed to give you legal advice, but your lawyer can counsel you on how certain stances or situations would play out in court, and help you choose which battles to fight.
This gives you a strategic advantage.
A lawyer can also keep you from making legal mistakes in your settlement that could cost you down the road, and ensure that your rights are respected in any agreement you come to with your spouse.
How Long Does Mediation Take and How Much Does it Cost?
It’s different for every couple. Some mediations take only a few hours; others may take weeks or months. However long it takes, though, mediation is nearly always faster than going to trial.
The cost of a mediation can also vary. The longer the process takes, the more expensive it is. In some circumstances, such as when your mediation is court-ordered, the process may be free.
Is Mediation Preferable to Going to Court?
Mediation is almost always less costly and time-consuming than a trial. It’s also less emotionally difficult; divorce trials can be traumatic, especially for children involved.
Another issue is privacy.
Mediations are confidential, but the courtroom is a public place; anyone can come in and watch your personal issues being discussed before a judge and sometimes a jury.
Finally, when you take your divorce to court, a judge makes the final decision with regard to the terms of your divorce. You may or may not like this decision, but you have to abide by it.
By contrast, the goal of a mediation is for both spouses to agree independently on the settlement. You may still have to compromise in a mediation, but you have more decision-making power.
Successful Mediation Attorney
We’ve handled hundreds of mediations over the course of our careers.
Here are a few we’re particularly proud of.
A Cherokee County divorce client agreed to a protective order from his wife before he came to us, stating that he couldn’t visit his children until the order expired in six months. Their relationship had seriously devolved.
During divorce mediation, we were able to modify the protective order, and help both parties agree to a more reasonable parent visitation schedule.
A Cobb County divorce client was involved in a very acrimonious custody battle between himself, his wife, and his wife’s parents. In the beginning, he was only allowed to see his children during supervised visits. We negotiated increased visitation without supervision.
Later, when it was discovered that the wife had been hiding her addiction, we were able to negotiate primary custody for this devoted father through mediation.
A Canton divorce client had been married to his wife for several decades before divorcing, and the two had complex financial and property entanglements. In addition, the wife had always been financially supported by the husband and was asking for a large alimony settlement that was not realistic for him.
During mediation, we helped these two see eye to eye—both convincing the husband to provide an alimony settlement that would support the wife financially, and alleviating the wife’s concerns about her ability to support herself. Ultimately, we helped both parties arrive at an agreement that worked for them.
Work With an Experienced Mediation Lawyer in Georgia
At Speights Law, we have an excellent track record of success in helping our clients get the best possible results during divorce mediations.
Call us at (770) 479-1500 for a consultation. Weekend and evening consultations are now available.
Amanda Speights is a co-founder and lead family law attorney at Speights Law, PC in Cherokee County. She is an experienced family law lawyer who handles an assortment of domestic cases, including divorce, child custody, child support, appeals and other types of litigation in the state of Georgia. To contact Amanda, please visit our contact page.