Divorce Mediation in Georgia
"Family mediation" means the mediation of disputes in actions for divorce, annulment, establishment of paternity, child custody or visitation, or child or spousal support.
Mediation programs can be very beneficial to people who are divorcing as well as to those who have long been divorced but who find themselves in a dispute in their post-divorce relationship. Not only can it save money but it promotes positive dispute resolution rather than adversarial procedures. That being so, it is well worth investigating by any couple facing divorce, a child custody fight, a visitation dispute or other interpersonal conflict.
Mediation is a process that may help you resolve your case so you can have an uncontested divorce. Mediation is particularly useful in situations involving children, since it is in the interests of the children that their parents "get along" even if they will no longer live together as husband and wife. In the State of Georgia, all cases that involve contested custody or visitation matters are referred to mandatory mediation, provided the parties are represented by an attorney and there is no allegation of domestic abuse.
Mediation attempts to change disputes from "win-lose" to "win-win." Mediation is a non-adversarial process of helping people come to agreement on issues like parenting arrangements, support of children and spouses and division of real and personal property. Mediation occurs when a neutral third-party, who has training in dispute resolution, assists you and your spouse and helps you resolve the issues that are causing conflict and to make cooperative, informed decisions.
Mediation can be used to resolve the entire range of family disputes either before a divorce takes place in order to consummate a marital settlement agreement, as well as after the divorce to resolve continuing disputes that might arise under a marital settlement agreement.
A history of abuse or allegations of abuse preclude mediation and the court will not refer for mandatory mediation of child custody or visitation any situation where abuse has been evident.
Mediation should not be used when there has been evidence of domestic violence or abuse or there is a great difference in power between the parties. For the mediation process to work there must be some degree of trust between the parties.
There are professional mediators who earn their living by providing divorcing couples mediation services on all issues. These professionals can be invaluable in helping couples resolve property and support issues but also will assist with custody and visitation disputes. Divorce attorneys and family counselors can often refer families to professional family law mediators. Psychologists, family counselors and social workers may also offer such services
How to create a divorce agreement with the help of a mediator -- without going to court.
Divorce mediation is a process in which divorcing spouses negotiate an acceptable divorce agreement with the help of a neutral third party -- the mediator. The mediator assists the spouses in negotiating but doesn't make any decisions for them.(back to top)
Because the mediator won't be making decisions for the divorcing couple, he or she doesn't need to decide who's right or wrong. Not only that, it is the mediator's job to help the spouses come up with an agreement that is acceptable to both parties, so the mediator makes a point of looking at the issues from both sides. Mediators who have been professionally trained have learned techniques for doing this.(back to top)
Because divorce involves legal questions, every divorcing spouse should know and understand his or her legal rights before agreeing to a settlement. Spouses who mediate are no exception. One way for a mediating spouse to do this is to work with a consulting lawyer who knows and understands mediation. Doing some independent legal research is another option. It's best to do this as early in the process as possible, then follow up with a legal review before signing the settlement agreement.(back to top)
Some mediators prefer to work separately with each spouse, acting as a go-between most or all of the time. Others favor joint meetings at which both spouses are present. There can be advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, depending on the circumstances of the particular couple. This is a question that divorcing spouses should address in advance with a potential mediator.(back to top)
Most mediations involve an hourly or per-session fee except for those that are ordered by a court or conducted through a community-based mediation agency. These agencies may provide mediation at no cost. The amount of time or number of sessions needed to gather information and negotiate an agreement will vary from couple to couple, so the cost of the mediation will also vary. Mediation, however, will always be much less costly than adversarial litigation.(back to top)
Personal referrals are usually the best way to find any professional, including a mediator. Because mediation is a relatively new field, personal referrals may not be possible. In that case, divorcing couples may need to do a little research. Using Divorce Mediation (Nolo) includes a chapter on locating a mediator and another chapter on using the first session to evaluate the mediator.(back to top)
Using mediation to negotiate a divorce agreement is almost always going to take less time, be less expensive, and result in a more solid agreement than using a lawyer to take the same case through the courts. For some couples, however, negotiating directly with each other, even with the help of a mediator, is not possible -- either because of problems in the relationship such as domestic violence or substance abuse, or because a spouse is unwilling to mediate. Using a lawyer, however, doesn't necessarily rule out mediation; many mediating spouses find it helpful to work with a consulting lawyer who can offer legal advice and assistance with the mediation and who can review the settlement agreement before it is signed.(back to top)
Mediation almost always takes less time than litigation. Depending on the issues, it can even take place in one day, although most divorcing couples meet for several sessions on separate days over a period of days or weeks or months.(back to top)
As its name implies, court-ordered mediation is conducted under the sponsorship of a court. It usually involves only child custody and visitation issues. Rarely are financial issues addressed in court-ordered mediation. There is often no fee charged for court-ordered mediation, whereas private mediators usually charge an hourly or per-session fee. The mediator in a court-sponsored program often makes a report to the court. Private mediation is usually confidential.(back to top)
Both mediation and arbitration involve a neutral third party who is not a judge. In mediation, the neutral party -- the mediator -- helps the spouses to negotiate an agreement and has no power to make decisions. In arbitration, the neutral third party -- the arbitrator -- listens to the facts and then decides the case.(back to top)