Mediation & Arbitration
Alternative dispute resolution, like mediation or arbitration, is typically the most efficient way to resolve disputes and preserve your family’s dignity.
Areas of Practice
Divorce, Alimony, Separation & Annulment
Guardian ad Litem
Contempt & Enforcement of Judgments
Paternity & Legitimation
Modification of Existing Orders
Mediation & Arbitration
Grandparent & Third Party Custody
Georgia Mediation and Arbitration Attorneys
Under most circumstances, the best possible result for any family law matter is to resolve issues by agreement. Asking the court to figure out what to do with the most intimate and personal aspects of your life, including how your children will spend time with their parents, is both expensive and unpredictable. While many clients believe that if the judge (and/or jury) just heard his or her story, the Judge would certainly understand what a horrible person the spouse is, that is rarely what happens. There are two sides to every story, and it is highly unusual for only one spouse to be at fault at the end of a marriage.
Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
To avoid the risk and uncertainty of a trial, we ask our clients to consider participating in mediation, arbitration, judicially hosted settlement conferences, and late case evaluation, collectively known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Many clients also appreciate the privacy of ADR, as well as the convenience of being able to schedule a time that is convenient rather than being told by the court when and where to show up for a trial.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”). In mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a mutually agreeable and impartial mediator, who assists them in resolving the issues in dispute.
Mediation is typically a completely voluntary process, although some courts will issue an Order requiring parties in domestic relations cases to mediate. 99.9% of our cases at Bloom Lines Alexander will go to mediation, mainly because we always believe that it is better for our clients to have a role in controlling the resolution of the case rather than leaving it to be resolved by a judge.
The mediator has no authority to make a decision during mediation. He or she will not render an opinion or provide legal advice. The mediator acts as a neutral facilitator to help reach an agreement that may not be optimal to both sides but is nevertheless acceptable.
Mediation is also a confidential process. In most circumstances, nothing that is said in mediation can be used against a party to the litigation. The mediator is charged with keeping matters confidential unless specifically authorized to share information between the parties.
Our attorneys at Bloom Lines Alexander are all experienced in representing clients in mediation, and many of us serve as mediators.
Planning for Mediation
We ask our client to plan on spending the entire day involved in mediation, and it is sometimes necessary to have more than one mediation session to resolve all of the issues. The court will often require mediation before it will conduct a trial. The court recognizes that the parties are in a much better position to resolve their case than the judge is. The fee for the mediator is split evenly between the parties unless the parties agree otherwise or the court orders otherwise.
Advantages of Arbitration
Arbitration is very similar to a trial, but it is not held in a courtroom or presided over by a judge. The parties usually will agree to use an experienced family law attorney to act as the arbitrator. The parties will present their evidence and testimony just as they would in a trial.
Although the arbitrator will charge an hourly fee, the advantage of arbitration is that the parties can choose when the arbitration will occur and will usually be able to schedule a longer time period to conduct the arbitration than is available with a superior court judge. The arbitration will be binding, and the parties usually agree that the decision will not be appealed. The arbitration award will ultimately become the order of the court and be the final judgment the parties will be required to follow, just as if the superior court judge to whom the case was assigned had made the decision.
Late Case Evaluation
The late case evaluation process is a little like mediation and a little like arbitration. The parties present their arguments to a late case evaluator, as well as what they think the evidence will show, and ask the late case evaluator to provide his or her opinion on the most likely outcome should the case go to trial. The opinion is not binding, but it can be quite eye-opening to hear from an experienced family law attorney who is not an advocate for one of the parties. Fellows from the American Academy of Matrimonial often serve as late case evaluators for cases assigned to the Family Division of the Superior Court of Fulton County. The insight provided by the evaluator is often able to break up any impasse in settlement negotiations and help get the case resolved.
Several Fulton County Superior Court judges who have taken senior status or have retired have agreed to act as mediators in these settlement conferences that are conducted at the courthouse for a fixed rate. The parties let the judge know what the issues are, share the evidence, and the judge helps the parties reach a settlement. This is a highly effective ADR process, particularly since the parties receive the insight of a judge who has years and years of experience handling all types of family law matters. This is a lot of bang for the buck and should be kept in mind for those difficult or complex cases. This is referred to as a judicially hosted settlement conference.