Tonight's post on Divorce and Mediation was written by our lead Marietta
Divorce Attorney, Jeannine Lowery.
Most Superior Courts in Georgia require domestic cases to go to mediation
before the case can go to trial, with some counties requiring mediation
even before the first hearing. Court ordered mediation, also known as
alternative dispute resolution, is a process where the parties in the
case sit down with a mediator, who is a neutral third party that is trained
to facilitate settlement discussions.
The Cobb County Alternative Dispute Resolution Center reports that 69%
of family law cases settle at mediation, making it an effective tool to
settle your case without the expense of trial. For most people going through
a divorce, or other family law case, mediation is a new process, and naturally
one that involves lots of questions. Here's answers to the five most
common questions clients ask about mediation:
1. Can the mediator force me to settle?
No, a mediator is not the Judge, or final decision maker for your case.
While a mediator might be a part time Judge, or even a former Judge, they
are not wearing that hat when they mediate your case. In fact, mediators
don't even have to be attorneys. They do have to be neutral, which
means they have no stake in the outcome of the case or any particular
bias towards the parties. Mediators help both parties see the strengths
and weaknesses of their case and help find common ground to facilitate
2. How much will mediation cost?
Mediator's costs range between $95 -$350 per hour, with the average
mediator costing about $175 per hour. The cost of mediation is usually
split between the parties. Each party will also have to pay for their
attorney for the time spent at mediation. Your attorney can help choose
an effective mediator and guide you through the process. Also, in some
cases your attorney can request the other party pay the mediations costs.
3. How long does mediation take?
Mediation can last from one hour to more than eight hours depending on
the complexity of the case. It can be a long and exhausting day, so be
ready to stick it out and be patient. Often this is the only chance you
may have to get the settlement you deserve so it's better not to let
fatigue cause you to settle for less.
4. Am I going to have to be in the same room with the other party?
Maybe, but not usually for very long. Emotions run high in divorce and
high emotions sometimes result in screaming matches. Most mediators, especially
where emotions are high, utilize a tool known as caucus. That means the
parties are in separate rooms during mediation and the mediator goes back
and forth negotiating a settlement between the two parties. Where emotions
are less volatile, the parties can be the same room for all or part of
the mediation and are free to talk to each or through their lawyers depending
on their comfort level.
5. What if we can't agree?
Worst-case scenario everyone goes home and the attorneys prepare for trial.
However, I strongly believe it's best to leave mediation with an agreement,
even if it just a partial agreement - and get everything in writing. Best-case
scenario is you leave mediation with a full settlement agreement, in writing,
signed by all parties. If that's impossible then the mediator can
help figure out what the parties can agree on and get a partial agreement.
This helps narrow the issues at trial, which will not only make the trial
simpler for the judge or jury, it will also make the trial less expensive.
I've heard it said that if at the end of mediation the parties reach
an agreement that they are both
a little unhappy with - the mediation was a success. Most times an agreement requires both parties
to compromise. Winston Churchill once said, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." So bring an attitude of compromise and of course, hire a good family
law attorney who is exceptionally familiar with the process.