In divorce law, mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in which a neutral or impartial person facilitates discussions between the parties in an attempt to settle their divorce. The process is flexible, confidential, and offers the couple an opportunity to resolve their issues and avoid the courtroom. It can also help the couple to develop a healthy foundation for future communication.
In Georgia, divorce mediations are conducted by a certified mediator. These individuals have to meet certain state requirements, such as: holding a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, completing both general mediation training and advanced domestic mediation training, and having experience observing and co-mediating actual disputes. In a mediation, mediators focus on the parties’ needs and interests. They help the couple to communicate in a civil manner and attempt to maintain a calm atmosphere. The mediator’s goal is to resolve all disputes, large or small. For family law, those disputes can include property division, debt division, alimony, child custody, parenting plans, child support, as well as taxes and retirement plans. While mediators do not have any legal authority to compel an agreement or impose a settlement, he or she can suggest ideas or ways that family law issues are commonly solved.
There are two main categories of family law divorce mediations. The first is a private mediation, in which one or both of the parties hire a private mediator to help resolve disputed before the divorce action is filed with the court. Any agreement reached and signed during this process is legally binding. The second category is a court-referred mediation, which is when a judge refers a couple to mediation after their divorce has been filed in court. The judge or your local ADR office will often appoint the mediator. Any agreements reached and signed during a court-referred mediation is legally binding.
Mediation is a viable option for most divorce cases, but it is not recommended if there are issues of domestic violence or a severe power imbalance.
For a party who is working with a family law or divorce attorney, the client will typically meet with their lawyer prior to the mediation for a preparation session. They will usually discuss goals for the mediation, as well as priority issues. If there is a question about finances, the attorney may prepare a list of incomes, assets, and/or debts. An attorney may also prepare a draft settlement document that addresses all client concerns.
Concerning the actual mediation process, every mediator and session is different – so there is not an exact, set formula. Typically, for divorce mediations, the mediator will put the parties and their attorneys in two separate rooms. The mediator will explain to each group how the session will proceed, and then he or she listens to opening statements from both sides. From there, the mediator moves back and forth between the rooms – asking questions, addressing concerns, and sharing each parties’ settlement offers. Mediations usually run at least two hours long; the length of the overall session depends on the parties’ individual circumstances and their willingness to cooperate. This back-and-forth process continues until the issues are resolved and the parties draft and sign a settlement agreement. Or, if the parties reach an impasse, the session ends and the judge will set the divorce case for a final trial.
Mediation can be an effective way of resolving divorce disputes or other family law issues. It is less time-consuming, less costly, and less stressful than going to court. If you would like additional information, or, for help with your divorce case, contact Atlanta Divorce Law Group at (678) 203-9893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.