Mediation is a process by which both parties to a divorce action meet with a neutral person trained in dispute resolution (called a mediator) who will help facilitate settlement between the parties. The mediator will initially meet with both parties to determine what issues there are to be resolved.

Issues often discussed in divorce mediation

  1. Child custody and visitation
  2. Division of debts and assets
  3. Division of property

Once the issues are identified, the mediator will then work with the parties to help them reach an agreement both sides are happy with (or at least one they can live with).

Let’s dive into seven of the most popular myths surrounding divorce mediation.

MYTH #1:

Mediation is a waste of time

Mediation is beneficial because both parties will have a role in deciding the outcome of their case as opposed to putting their future solely into the hands of a judge.

MYTH #2:

Mediation costs too much

Although there is cost involved in mediation, oftentimes attending mediation will end up saving money for you in the long run. If you are able to reach an agreement at mediation, you will save all the time and money involved in preparing for a hearing, as well as the cost involved in ongoing negotiations between the parties.

MYTH #3:

If I go to mediation, I don’t need to hire an attorney

Yes, I am an attorney, so that’s why I say you need one, right? Wrong.

Even though you could attend mediation without an attorney, it’s smart to hire an attorney any time you are involved in a legal action, especially one as serious as divorce. Some terms of a divorce cannot be modified down the road, so it is very important to make sure your rights and best interests are protected the first time.

If you do attend mediation without an attorney, you have three days to rescind any agreement you have made. After that period, you are bound by your agreement. If you don’t have an attorney attend mediation with you, I would recommend you schedule an appointment with an attorney who can review the mediated agreement within that three day window.

MYTH #4:

The mediator determines the outcome of my divorce

Arbitration, another tool often used for settling civil disputes, allows for the arbitrator to make a determination after hearing the facts and issues of a case. In mediation, however, the mediator merely helps the parties reach an agreement they are happy with without giving any input as to the final outcome.

MYTH #5:

I can go to mediation without my spouse

Both parties must be present in order for mediation to occur. By nature, mediation is a process by which a mediator works with both parties to help facilitate settlement.

MYTH #6:

If we reach an agreement at mediation, we can be divorced that day

You are not divorced in Georgia until a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce is signed by a judge and filed with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where your divorce is taking place.

Once an agreement is reached at mediation, the terms of that agreement will be filed with the court by one of the parties’ attorneys (or one of the parties if there are not attorneys involved) in a document often called a Settlement Agreement. The Final Judgment and Decree will incorporate the Settlement Agreement, thereby making your agreement at mediation part of the court’s order.

MYTH #7:

Mediation in Georgia is an alternative to going through the traditional divorce process

In many Georgia circuits, mediation is a required step in the process of obtaining a divorce, but it cannot replace the legal steps that must be completed to be divorced in Georgia. Although mediation may not be required in your circuit, it is always available if both parties agree and wish to attend.

Smith, Welch, Webb & White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business. For more information on this topic, contact Elizabeth O’Neal at eoneal@smithwelchlaw.com or call (770) 775-3188 to schedule an appointment.