In every Georgia divorce case, it is important to explore alternative dispute resolution options, including mediation. Divorce mediation is a confidential process where you and your spouse meet (along with your divorce attorneys) and a mediator facilitates a negotiation. Mediation often occurs early in the timeline of divorce, before a trial. The goal is to resolve any disputed issues before incurring the expensive costs of litigation.
How Mediation Works
Divorce mediation usually takes place at the courthouse, in the mediator’s office, or at one of the attorney’s offices. If you each have a divorce attorney, then the attorneys almost always attend the mediation. If you don’t have attorneys, you can still participate in divorce mediation Atlanta. In rare circumstances, you and your spouse can agree to mediate without your attorneys present. However, having your attorneys present has several advantages. You will have the opportunity to privately consult with your attorney about negotiation strategy and what’s reasonable regarding alimony, child support, and an equitable division of assets and debts. Keep in mind, mediators cannot give legal advice. Their goal is to facilitate a discussion and a settlement – not to give either side legal advice.
In mediation, everyone typically begins by meeting in the same room to review the rules of mediation. These rules include:
After you go through the rules together, everyone typically will break into a caucus. This means that you and your spouse (with your attorneys) are divided into two separate rooms, and the mediator goes back and forth. When the mediator meets with you, you can present your version of the events and your proposal to the mediator. You can ask the mediator to keep certain things confidential or to share certain things with the other side. Your spouse will have the same opportunities. The mediator doesn’t necessarily spend an equal amount of time with each side. Each mediation is different, and the mediator uses their discretion based on the issues and how they feel they can best settle the case.
Mediators Are Not Judges
Unlike judges, mediators do not have the authority to order you or your spouse to do anything. Mediators are merely facilitators. Still, in my ten years of handling contested divorces, nearly 85% of cases settle at mediation. It is an incredibly effective process. Choosing the right mediator and being prepared for mediation increases your chances of settling your divorce in mediation.
Choosing a Mediator
Mediators are impartial, but everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses as well as various areas of expertise. Consult with your attorney about finding the right mediator for your divorce. Some mediators have expertise in complex financial issues, while others are more experienced with child custody issues and parenting plans. Some mediators have forceful personalities, while others are reserved. To settle your divorce and achieve the best result, it’s imperative you take the time to analyze the needs of your case and select an appropriate mediator.
The Cost of Mediation
Mediators are paid by the hour. Mediation rates range from $150 up to $400 per hour. Both spouses typically share the cost of mediation, with each paying half of the hourly rate. You and your spouse can agree to split the cost differently, or for one side to pay all of the fees. However, if there is no agreement, then the cost is split equally. The fees are paid at the end of the mediation – whether the case is settled or not. Remember, if your attorneys are present, you will also have to pay them for their time, with each spouse paying the cost of their own attorney.
Mediation Can Be Quick, or Not…
Mediations can take an hour, up to 12 hours, or sometimes longer. Mediations can take place in one day or be broken up into several days. It depends on the complexity of the issues and how far apart the spouses are in their divorce negotiations. If you successfully negotiate a settlement, then both sides will draft a mediated agreement that will be formalized by the attorneys and submitted to the court. Sometimes at mediation, the formal documents are drafted and everything is signed. Your agreement becomes legally binding once both parties have signed it.
The Marietta divorce attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott have a tremendous amount of experience with divorce mediation in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. We can advise you on how to prepare for mediation, what to expect at mediation, and how to avoid making costly mistakes at mediation. We can also recommend mediators who would be an ideal fit for your divorce case. Please contact us or call 404-793-6530 to speak with one of our highly qualified divorce attorneys!