Georgia Divorce Mediation

Mediation is an important process that couples take prior to moving forward with their divorce. Mediation involves meeting with a third party (Mediator) to consult on which issues can be amicably addressed throughout the divorce process. Often, attorneys recommend Mediation as it reduces legal time and costs, during your divorce case, thus making it more seamless.

At Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor, making sure you get what you are entitled to in your divorce is our top priority. If you and your former spouse have disagreements on important issues, divorce mediation may be required. As experienced Georgia divorce mediation attorneys serving the area for over 30 years, we can advise you on what to expect from these sessions and help you prepare.


What to Expect in Divorce Mediation

Under the Georgia Code, issues pertaining to marital property division, child custody and support, and alimony payments must be resolved before your divorce can be finalized. For couples who are unable to reach agreements on their own regarding these issues, the court may refer them to mediation before a neutral third party.

During divorce mediation, the goal is to get you and your former partner to communicate more effectively, working through any problems to create solutions that best suit your situation. While the mediator will make suggestions regarding potential ways to resolve issues related to finances, property, or children in your divorce, it is still up to you to make the final decision.

If mediation produces no agreement, your case will go to divorce court as a contested divorce. Some divorce cases at least will resolve some of your issues through mediation. So, even if you do not settle every issue, settling some issues helps reduce your overall costs and the time it takes to try a case before the court.

Divorce Mediation Process

During mediation, both parties will meet with their attorneys in the same or separate rooms, and a mediator will help the two parties’ compromise when possible. A mediator is usually a retired judge or attorney and has no legal grounds to make final decisions or judgements. Furthermore, the mediator is an unbiased party with no ties to either side, so the advice and techniques he or she employs to help two spouses come to an agreement are entirely objective.


Benefits of Divorce Mediation

Statistics show that mediation leads to better post-divorce relationships between spouses and better situations for children. Unlike an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse may still disagree about the outcome but decide to undergo mediation with a neutral third party to settle differences.

There are several benefits of divorce mediation:

  • Unlike divorce records, mediation records are not made public unless the parties sign an agreement.
  • Mediation is faster and less expensive than divorce in court.
  • Mediation does not have to be legally binding because no decision has to be made at the end of the day. You can back out of mediation agreements before signing the papers at the end.
  • Mediation can be less stressful on you and easier on children, according to the American Psychological Association.

Is Mediation Required for Divorce in Georgia?

In fact, most counties in Georgia require that you attend divorce mediation because there is such a high chance of settling your case. Because you are not spending time in court and paying for many hours of attorney time through a contested divorce case, the mediation process can consume significantly less time and money. This is the key difference between mediation vs. litigation. While mediation is still costly, it is less costly than litigation.


divorce mediation process

What is Discussed in Divorce Mediation

During the mediation process, you and your spouse will discuss and attempt to resolve important issues such as:

  • Child custody
  • Division of assets
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Attorney fees

With divorce mediation in Georgia, a neutral third party mediator will listen to all points of view, examine the evidence, and help facilitate negotiations to reach an amicable solution satisfactory to both you and your spouse. The mediation process is also designed to encourage both you and your spouse to work together on creating a common solution rather than vehemently fighting each other in the court system.

A Divorce Mediation Checklist

A checklist will help you and your attorney ensure that all aspects of the divorce are covered:

  • Child custody – determine:
    • Who has been the child’s primary caregiver
    • Which parent the child, if old enough to decide, wants to live with
    • Who has better parenting abilities
  • Child support – gather:
    • Financial data, including income, for each parent
  • Spousal support – submit evidence about:
    • The length of marriage
    • How much the receiving parent needs (According to Georgia.gov, a documented monthly budget can serve that purpose.)
  • Marital asset information – collect information documenting:
    • Incomes of each parent
    • Bank statements
    • 401(k) account balances
    • Other retirement account balances
    • Taxes
    • Vehicle information
    • Personal belongings inventory, such as furniture, jewelry purchased during the marriage, sports equipment, and more
    • The value of stocks and bonds
  • Liabilities (debts) – provide balances of:
    • Home loans
    • Credit cards
    • Motor vehicle loans

Let Us Help You Today

Before and after any divorce mediation sessions you attend, our Georgia divorce attorneys will work with you to ensure you are clear on your rights and your options. Reaching a divorce settlement agreement can be challenging, but we offer tried and true strategies designed to help you get the best possible results. Reach and contact Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor to request a consultation today.

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divorce mediation costs

How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?

You may be wondering if divorce mediation, a popular alternative to traditional divorce proceedings, is right for you. It is less expensive than traditional divorce, takes less time, and is usually less stressful. Plus, there is a higher chance that both parties will walk away feeling like the decision was fair to them, and that the other spouse did not end up with something that he or she did not deserve.

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), a mediated divorce costs 40% to 60% less than a litigated divorce, mostly due to fewer hours billed by your attorney. This is good news for your pocketbook, job, and home and social life.

Cost of Divorce Mediation in Georgia

With a typical contested divorce costing upwards of several tens of thousands of dollars, mediation may be right for you if you and your spouse do not want to spend so much on separating. Mediators usually bill between $0.00 and $375 per hour, depending up the county in which the action is filed. Combined with your personal attorney’s fee, mediation is quite reasonable. Sometimes during traditional court divorces, a judge will order mediation.


Types of Divorce Mediation

There are more ways to divorce than you may think. Even though every divorce can involve settling differences regarding asset division, child custody, alimony, and child support, a traditional court divorce may not serve you in the way you assumed it would. Therefore, like many couples, you might benefit from mediation — court-ordered or private — because the outcome is typically all-around more just than a decision made by a judge in court. It is faster, less expensive, less stressful, easier on children, simpler to plan for and plan around, and there is no public record.
types of divorce mediation

What is the Difference between Court-Ordered Mediation and Private Mediation?

Private Divorce Mediation

According to Forbes, 80% of divorce cases are unilateral, meaning that one spouse wants to divorce, while the other does not. When this is the case, it is cause for added tension, and divorce has plenty of tension as it is. One way to minimize stress is to choose a mediated divorce over one filed through the court. You and your spouse can work with your own attorneys and settle matters through a private mediation, scheduled when and where it is most convenient.

Court-Ordered Divorce Mediation

When your divorce is brought to court, a judge may decide that you and your spouse should first attempt a compromise via a court-ordered mediation. The court may choose a mediator for the couple or leave the decision up to the couple. Court-ordered mediation works similarly to private mediation in that you both will be represented by your own attorneys, meet together with a mediator, and negotiate the terms of your divorce as amicably as possible. If an agreement cannot be made with mediation, your divorce will return to the courtroom where the judge will make the final decision.

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How long does divorce mediation take?

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), a mediated divorce costs 40% to 60% less than a litigated divorce, mostly due to fewer hours billed by your attorney. This is good news for your pocketbook, job, and home and social life.
couple waiting during mediation

Divorce Mediation Pre-Planning

A significant part of mediation and the overall time commitment happens outside the mediation room. It takes time to locate and gather documents, discuss your goals with your attorney, and work out a plan to accomplish those goals. One of the primary roles your attorney plays during a mediated divorce, according to the ABA, is to explain to you, the client, how the mediation process works. Together, you’ll address whether timing of the divorce is important, talk about how to make informed decisions, analyze the background of the mediator, review what you need to prepare yourself for in terms of outcome, and more.

How Long and How Many Mediation Sessions?

The second aspect of how long a divorce mediation takes is the number of sessions and the length of each session. Typically, a mediation session takes between three and five hours, with some going up to all day. However, sessions are kept short to decrease stress and ensure that both spouses are still in the mindset of coming to an agreement and meeting each other in the middle. As such, mediation may be split into two or three days, divided out over a few months. Sometimes only a few mediation sessions are required, and the entire mediation process can be over within a matter of a week or two. Other times, it may take multiple months of mediation before an agreement can be reached. If no agreement materializes, the spouses will seek other forms of divorce.


How to Prepare for Divorce Mediation

couple preparing for divorce mediationPreparing for divorce mediation requires a high level of meticulous planning. You need to be thoroughly prepared when you step into that room. Everything from who gets the leather couch to child custody will be discussed and agreed upon. An attorney can help you create a plan that is fair to you and any children involved.

A common list of divorce topics for which you need to be prepared to go over during mediation include the following:

  • Your wishes for marital asset division, including real property, retirement accounts, bank accounts, stocks, and bonds;
  • The responsibility for certain debts, such as car and credit card loans, the home mortgage, and more. The average mortgage debt in Georgia is $170,000, according to Experian. If you have paid years of your salary into this home, remodeled, or put considerable work into upkeep and housekeeping, your ownership of the home is well stated, but it may not make sense to hold onto the house with a single person’s salary. If neither of you can afford to pay the mortgage on your own, a solution to the debt must be negotiated.
  • Child custody, visitation, parenting plan, and child support;
  • Alimony or spousal support

What to Bring to a Divorce Mediation

The documentation you will need during mediation depends on your specific situation. For example, if you’re one of the 60% of Americans (according to the Insurance Information Institute) who have life insurance, you would be required to present documentation about it during a divorce mediation. Working with an attorney will ensure that you come prepared. Generally, the documentation required includes, but is not limited, to the following:

  • Employment and income information;
  • Contact information;
  • Credit card statements;
  • Mortgage statements;
  • Life insurance policy information;
  • Retirement account statements;
  • Bank account statements;
  • Wills;
  • Mortgage balances for cars, trucks, boats, and RVs;
  • Tax returns.

Divorce Mediation Tips

You can help your mediator succeed by employing these strategies:

  • Keep your emotions under control as much as possible;
  • Think rationally about what will benefit you in the future, not just the present;
  • Avoid getting into heated arguments with the mediator or your spouse;
  • Try to see from your spouse’s point of view;
  • Be prepared to settle somewhere in the middle on certain aspects of the divorce agreement;
  • Protect your and your child’s best interests;
  • Choose an appropriate attorney.

How to Find a Good Divorce Mediator

person meeting divorce attorneyIf you choose to go the route of divorce mediation, your mediator will play an important role in your divorce. Important qualities to look for in a mediator, according to the Huffington Post, include lack of bias, ability to remain calm under pressure, compassion for solving others’ problems, critical thinking skills, ability to come up with ‘outside-the-box’ solutions, experience with divorce cases (some mediators specialize in other types of mediation, such as civil cases), and excellent communication skills. It may seem like a tall order to fill, but there are many highly-qualified, professional divorce mediators in the area. Your attorney may have worked with a number of them before and could offer to share a list of the most trusted and capable ones with you.

Overall, there are four steps to take when deciding upon a mediator:

  • Educate yourself about what makes a good mediator;
  • Create a list of mediators in your area;
  • Narrow that list down to those you believe are most qualified, and meet with a handful of them;
  • Work with your attorney to choose the one best suited for the job.

Working with the wrong attorney may undermine your mediation more than you realize. According to the American Bar Association, common attorney mistakes include insufficient preparation, failing to set appropriate client expectations, talking too much, and being too adversarial.

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