Atlanta Mediation Attorneys
Experienced Mediation Lawyers in Atlanta, Georgia
You should always be open to the possibility of a joint settlement as an alternative to trial. Remember, going to trial is time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, by going to trial, you effectively place your post-divorce life in the hands of a judge who can only identify you by a case number. You want as much discretion as possible in deciding what your life will look like after your divorce. Therefore, in some cases, you may find it beneficial to enlist the services of a professional mediator to help you and your spouse come to an agreement. A mediator is a professional with specialized training in the art of dispute resolution. Your lawyer should be able to help you find a good, reputable mediator in your area and help you determine if mediation is the best option.
The goal of every attorney at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC in every case is the same — to serve each individual with the highest of integrity, helping to rebuild strong lives and return hope where it once appeared to be lost forever. Yes, they are “divorce lawyers,” but they prefer to call themselves “family lawyers”: someone who can help return freedom, peace, and predictability to deserving spouses and families.
Contact us at (404) 688-8810 for more information about our mediation services.
Why Do I Need an Attorney for Mediation?
You and your spouse can come to an agreement at any time—before, during or after the divorce. Usually, you can come to an agreement in two basic ways. First, by sitting down with your spouse, as well as your respective lawyers, and hammering out your own agreement. Or second, you and your spouse can go to court, where you will have a trial before a judge, and in some cases, a jury. If a trial is needed, the judge will resolve your disputes and you will have to live with his or her decision.
The judge may not be the understanding person you imagined. Remember, judges may be impartial, but they are extremely busy and they are human. Consequently, judges usually take a realist approach to divorce and are therefore more inclined to say, “Your marriage is over. Neither of you will have to live with this person anymore. That is your reward for your spouse’s conduct. Now, let’s divide the assets fairly and we can all move on.” Divorce is not about revenge, especially for a judge who sees hundreds if not thousands of cases per year. For the judge, it is about helping you get on with your life. Once the judgment is rendered and the gavel pounds, you are stuck with the ruling.
A mediator is an impartial person who will listen to both parties’ grievances and post-divorce goals, weigh each party’s argument, communicate each party’s proposed offers and settlements, and then help the two parties reach an agreement. Stated differently, a mediator is a “facilitator.” A mediator is someone who facilitates a resolution. The overriding purpose of mediation is to find a way to reach a binding and amicable settlement between you and your spouse.
A mediator can be anyone: an accountant, a lawyer, a priest or a rabbi; however, a good divorce lawyer who can provide sound judgment and a reality check when necessary is usually the best person for the job. This way, if needed, the mediator can politely explain what they think might happen at trial given the facts of your particular case. Each community sets standards for mediator training, so your lawyer will be familiar with good mediators.
The Process of Mediation
In mediation, both parties come together for one or a series of meetings to discuss contested issues. At the outset, the mediator will give their introductory remarks and try to put everyone at ease. Generally, the mediator will make certain that everyone knows that you cannot use what is said during the mediation later in court. Just like attorney-client privilege, your communications and settlement offers are not admissible in court. Additionally, you cannot subpoena the mediator later to testify in your case. This meeting is strictly for settlement discussion. Of course, if you disclose in mediation that you have a new bank account, opposing counsel can later subpoena that bank. Nevertheless, that information needs to be shared anyway.
After the mediator has given their introductions, the parties (either you or your attorney) will present the case, meaning your lawyer will get an uninterrupted chance to state the facts as you and he understand them. In most cases, after each party’s attorney has made their opening statements the parties will be split into separate rooms, but in contentious cases, the separation of the parties can be done at the start of the process.
The mediator goes from room to room in a kind of shuttle diplomacy. That way, you can get things off your chest to a mediator that you did not feel comfortable discussing during in front of your spouse. For example, you may tell the mediator that it is imperative that you stay in the house and gain primary custody of the children because you think their best chance for a good education is in your school district. However, your husband may insist that his new condominium is in a superior school district and that your children can transfer to the new school and get a better education. The mediator will go back and forth, learning more about each side’s feelings on the matter to try and find a middle ground.
After both parties have made their case, the mediator will communicate—with each party’s permission—certain information to the other party in the hopes of reaching an agreement. A good mediator, one who specializes in divorce and who understands the implications of going to trial, can offer informed opinions about how each party will fare at trial. You would be surprised how effective mediation can be, even in the toughest divorces. Indeed, the power of mediation is that it is voluntary and it puts the power of settlement in the hands of the parties themselves.
Before accepting any offer from the opposing party, both sides can go back to their respective corners to think about it. By contrast, at trial, your lawyer makes an argument about the case, going over the facts pertinent to your situation, proffering evidence, and applying the law. The judge will then interpret the law and make a ruling. In mediation, you have more control over your destiny. You make the decision and then live by it.
Frequently Asked Questions
While in the middle of a hectic divorce, you may need answers faster than you can even ask the questions. To assist in this, Kessler & Solomiany, LLC team has compiled a few of the questions they receive most often. If you cannot find your question, or it’s not answered in a way that’s satisfactory, contact us at (404) 688-8810 for more information.
What type of provisions can I have in a settlement agreement?
Generally, you may include any provisions that you and your spouse can agree upon. The caveat to this general rule comes when children are involved. When children are at issue, a provision must be in the best interest of the child. That being said, your settlement agreement may include provisions, for example, that divide your savings, debts, and property or even provisions for child support payments and child custody provided the payments and custody arrangement further the best interest of the child.
How much does it cost?
A good mediator will charge approximately what a good divorce lawyer will charge—a minimum of approximately $200 and sometimes up to $500 an hour. Generally, mediation is an all-day process. The fee can be split any way the parties prefer. If one person has all the money, then they can pay for the mediator’s fee. It is, after all, “marital” money. Another option, which you may feel is appropriate, is to split the fee because both sides are benefitting from the process and then neither will prolong it just to cost the other side money.
Preserving Fragile Relationships
Serving as a mediator is gratifying for the mediators as well since a successful mediation will usually save both parties thousands of dollars in legal fees in addition to preventing even further deterioration of the relationship between the parties. This concept becomes even more important when children are involved since parents who litigate usually find it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate after the litigation.
As active practicing family law attorneys, Randy Kessler and Marvin Solomiany are able to engage in “reality testing” to enhance the mediation process. In essence this allows both parties to get an idea of what may happen if the case is decided by a judge or jury, giving litigants a better idea of whether a mediated resolution which may be “on the table” is worth considering.
|We Wrote the Book
Randy Kessler, with the assistance of several attorneys in the firm wrote a guide to mediation, with excellent guidance for litigants, lawyers and mediators. Entitled How to Mediate a Georgia Divorce, it is available for sale through ICLE, the Georgia Bar’s continuing education service.
Avoiding Costly Legal Fees
Our attorneys often serve as mediators and have mediated cases as attorneys for our clients. The hourly rates as mediators are often a bit lower than the hourly rate charged when serving as a lawyer in a matter. Feel free to contact our office for current rates for any of our lawyers to serve as a mediator. This cost is usually split evenly by the parties, but that is subject to the agreement of the parties. Payment is due at the conclusion of the mediation and there is a two hour minimum.
Parties are welcome to come to mediation with or without an attorney. However, if you already have an attorney, you are encouraged to discuss mediation in depth with your attorney before the process begins. When an attorney from Kessler & Solomiany, LLC acts as a mediator, we do not act as an attorney for either party and we do not give legal advice. The only legal advice upon which a participant in mediation should rely is that of their own, independent attorney.
Contact Our Atlanta Mediation Attorneys Today
Do not listen if people tell you they know what will happen in mediation or your divorce. Every case is different, and everyone reacts differently to mediation when given the opportunity to settle. Usually, a party’s stubbornness stems from anger and misinformation, which can usually be overcome with the help of a good lawyer. As stated above, a good lawyer will try to convince your stubborn spouse about the positives of mediation. To get in touch with an excellent attorney with years of experience in offering mediation, call the team at (404) 688-8810.
Randall M. Kessler, and Marvin Solomiany have completed the courses required by the State Bar of Georgia to be registered as domestic relations mediators and have active mediation practices. However, their strength and the strength of all of our attorneys when they act as mediators, is that they bring the perspective of a family law attorney who has been there, tried cases, advised litigants and is familiar with the local courts, judges and the particular rules and customs of each court. Randy Kessler and Marvin Solomiany have also taught mediation training for lawyers and others, and Randy Kessler, Marvin Solomiany lecture frequently on the topic.