What to Expect in Divorce Mediation
Divorces are hard, and coming to an amicable agreement during a divorce can seem impossible. This is where divorce mediation comes in. In Georgia, courts may require divorcing couples to attend mediation before the divorce goes to litigation. Mediation can be extremely beneficial because it brings in a neutral third party who can help guide the conversation and keep everyone focused on reaching a mutual agreement.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is intended to be an informal and confidential conversation between parties in the presence of an impartial third party who assists in negotiating a mutual divorce agreement. Mediation is non-binding, meaning any verbal agreements reached during mediation will not become binding until the parties sign a written agreement memorializing such agreements.
To encourage open and honest conversations, Georgia makes mediation confidential. As a result, nothing said during the mediation sessions can be used if the divorce goes to litigation. However, under Georgia law, there are a few instances in which mediation communications can be disclosed, including:
- All parties of the mediation session sign an agreement waiving confidentiality.
- Threats to cause bodily harm or commit a criminally violent act are made.
- Statements are made concerning a criminal act or concealment of a criminal act.
- Some communications sought to prove or disprove abuse, neglect, or abandonment in certain situations may be disclosed.
- Communications concerning whether the parties appeared for mediation may be disclosed.
Who Is the Mediator?
In Georgia, mediators are impartial parties who qualify under the Supreme Court of Georgia Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules to conduct mediation. Meditators will guide the conversation during divorce mediation to prevent it from becoming a dispute. Mediators will also provide suggestions for resolutions, but they cannot decide how the parties should resolve their dispute.
Who Pays for Mediation?
The cost of divorce mediation and who pays for it depends on the county. For example, in Fulton County, each party will pay $115 to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Office for a divorce mediation session.
What Happens During Mediation
Divorce mediation will usually begin with introductions from the mediator. Then, each party will sign a confidentiality agreement acknowledging that they cannot use anything said during mediation against the other party unless it falls within one of Georgia’s exceptions.
Next, each party’s attorney will make an opening statement, typically laying out where the parties’ current positions and their clients’ wants or needs. At this time, attorneys can also use any evidence that may be useful during the mediation. After opening statements, the mediator may put the parties in separate rooms, or they may be left in the same room to attempt to reach an agreement.
If the parties are in separate rooms, the mediator will go back and forth asking for proposed resolutions for all outstanding issues and present those proposals to the other side. Mediation discussions can cover anything that the parties still need to agree about, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Division of assets
- Spousal support
- Attorney fees
If the parties can reach an agreement, they must put the agreement in writing and sign it before it becomes binding.
The Benefits of Divorce Mediation
Mediation presents an opportunity to agree about unresolved divorce issues under the guidance of an impartial third party. Some of the benefits of mediation are that it is:
- Not public: Divorces that are litigated become public records, meaning anyone can find the structure of your divorce, including child support, spousal support, and property division. Mediation may be a good option if you do not want your private information made public.
- Less expensive: Mediation can save the parties money because it can resolve the divorce faster than going to court.
- Less stressful: Mediation can also be less stressful for the divorcing couple and children because you can reach a mutual resolution rather than going to war in court.
- Not legally binding: Mediation can help you have an open and honest conversation, but it is not legally binding, so you can change your mind after mediation before the agreement is signed.
Getting Ready for Divorce Mediation
Before your mediation session, you should prepare by knowing the outstanding issues and your stance on each issue. Deciding where you are willing to compromise and where you are not is also helpful. To prepare, you should consider the following:
- Who has been the child’s primary caregiver, and who should be the primary caregiver going forward?
- How much money does each party make?
- What martial assets are there?
The better prepared you are before mediation, the more successful it will be because you have a goal going in and can accurately articulate it.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney
While a mediator will play the role of a neutral third party to guide the conversation and help you enter a mutual agreement, having an attorney will ensure you are prepared for mediation and get you what you deserve in the divorce. Contact a skilled Kessler & Solomiany, LLC Atlanta divorce attorney to discuss your case and legal options by calling us at (404) 688-8810 or contacting us online.