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Arbitration vs. Mediation

As Atlanta divorce attorneys, we are often asked the questions: “Should I take my case to trial?” and “Is arbitration or mediation a good option for my divorce case?”

Without specific facts and details specific to the particular case, it is difficult to provide accurate response to the first question. Many individuals seek to carry their matters to trial for a myriad of reasons, and this is a decision that must be reached after careful consideration and consultation with a qualified attorney. However, the answer to the second question is a relatively simple one. Generally, using a form of alternative dispute resolution like mediation or arbitration to resolve a divorce is preferable to trial because it is often more cost effective and efficient, and parties are generally happier with the end result. This is so, because with alternative dispute resolution, the parties involved are given more latitude to craft their own resolution and the process is generally more relaxed and “user friendly” than trail.

In Georgia, it is very common for couples to resolve their divorce matter through mediation. In fact, many counties in Georgia require parties in divorce or other family law related cases to seek mediation prior to seeking a hearing or trial in front of a judge. Mediation is a process where a neutral or impartial person, known as a mediator, facilitates settlement discussions between the parties. The mediator has no authority to make a decision or impose any settlement terms on the parties. The mediator’s sole purpose is to help the parties come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Any settlement entered into during mediation must be totally voluntary. Normally, if the parties fail to reach an agreement at mediation, the case either proceeds to trial, or alternatively, the parties may seek to engage in a second session of mediation.

On the other hand, arbitration is a process where one arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators renders a decision on an abbreviated version of the facts and evidence in a case, which is either presented by each party or their attorneys. Arbitration may either be binding or non-binding. If arbitration is binding, the parties involved are legally bound by the arbitrator’s decision. In Georgia, all arbitration is non-binding. This means that the arbitration decision is not binding if either party may demands a trial within a specified period. Otherwise the non-binding decision becomes binding.

In essence, difference between arbitration and mediation is that in arbitration the arbitrator or arbitrators make decisions for the parties, while in mediation the parties make their own decisions and create their own settlement terms.

Although mediation is the most commonly used form of alternative dispute resolution in Georgia for the resolution of divorce matters, the method of adjudication is ultimately up to the parties involved. If you are interested in learning more about the merits of the methods for resolving your divorce matter, contact one of our attorneys at 678-879-9000 for a telephone consultation.