Mediation or arbitration?

Sometimes a Georgia divorce case just can’t be settled by the parties. This happens for a variety of reasons. One spouse is too angry over infidelity or other marital misconduct. One wants more money for child support or alimony than the other is willing to pay. Or the spouses just don’t get along, which is often the case in divorce.

Judges settle cases every day but divorcing couples and others involved in legal disputes have two other options. Mediation and arbitration are often confused and thought of as the same procedure. But the two methods of settling Georgia divorces outside of the courtroom are different.

Mediation

Mediation involves a neutral third party who sits down with the two sides and perhaps their attorneys to settle outstanding issues. In Georgia, mediators do not have to be attorneys although some attorneys offer mediation services. Some couples try a mediator first before filing for divorce. In contested cases courts will order a couple to seek mediation before a final hearing can be set.

Tips for successful mediation

  • Bring any documents including tax returns, financial accounts including credit card debt and savings, school records if there are children and appraisal of any valuables you share. Basically, if you think there will be a dispute, bring any documents to support your claim.
  • You probably have a lot to say, especially if you did not want the divorce. By listening to your soon-to-be former spouse, you may learn what lead to the marital break-up (if there was no violence or infidelity).
  • Be concise. Rambling on about an incident that happened a decade ago is just wasting time. Stick to the issues on the table.
  • Be open-minded. No one wins in a divorce. Each spouse gives up something—assets, time with the kids, security. Understand you must compromise. If you don’t, a judge—likely a total stranger—will divide up the life you once shared with your spouse.

Remember, the mediator will not be making the decision for you or your former spouse. He or she will be guiding you to a resolution decided by both of you.

Mediation is non-binding in Georgia. The judge must agree to the agreement decided between the two parties and make an official part of the court record.

Mediation is more commonly used than arbitration in divorce cases.

Arbitration

Unlike mediation, arbitration is decided by one person or a panel. The rules resemble a mini-trial where both sides present their evidence. Arbitration allows soon-to-be ex-spouses to have their case decided by a third party without a public trial.

Spouses do not negotiate with each other during the proceedings and usually are represented by their attorneys. Again, the decision is non-binding. Either party can decide not to accept the arbitrator’s decision and go to trial.

Why are alternative dispute resolutions popular?

Couples seek mediation or arbitration for many reasons. Often the deciding factor is money. While a mediator does require a fee, couples pay less than they would in court cost and attorney’s fees if the case is decided in court. Court calendars, especially in small circuits, are often crowded. Mediation or arbitration can save time by agreeing to a resolution out of court. And finally, many families want to keep their “dirty laundry” from being aired in a public courtroom.

You can find out more about mediation and arbitration for your Georgia divorce here.