Because each family law matter is unique, it is difficult to accurately predict the costs of a case's resolution. Despite this, one fact almost universally understood is that divorces can be expensive.
While some costs of divorce are unavoidable (e.g., filing fees and in some instances, service fees), others can be mitigated or done away with if the parties enter the process with a resolution-focused mindset. Resolving a divorce through mediation eliminates the need to take the case to trial, which ultimately can save thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Many counties in Georgia require parties to attempt mediation prior to setting a final hearing date. If the parties are able to settle all issues through mediation, the need for expansive litigation will be eliminated, leading the case to a final resolution much sooner.
The timeline for each divorce is dependent on the unique circumstances of the case. However, resolving a divorce through mediation can eliminate months, or even years, which would otherwise be spent litigating.
When divorces are litigated in court, the hearings are open to the public and the proceedings become a matter of public record. This means the issues discussed in your divorce case, often highly personal, will be memorialized and thereafter accessible for public viewing. One way to avoid this is by resolving your case through mediation.
All information gathered during mediation is confidential and privileged. The mediator, the parties to the divorce, and their respective counsel are bound to the duty of confidentiality. Parties are typically required to sign an agreement prior to the mediation stating they will not subpoena the mediator or any document(s) resulting from the mediation in a subsequent court action. The confidential nature of mediation affords parties the comfort to communicate openly to facilitate an agreement, without the fear of their personal affairs being exposed for public scrutiny.
When handling a divorce case through litigation, the parties are tied to the court's schedule. Because of case backlogs and busy court calendars, parties often have to wait several months for a final hearing. Resolving a case through mediation gives the parties the freedom to coordinate with each other and the mediator to schedule a mediation date that is convenient for everyone involved.
Empowerment and Autonomy
When litigating a divorce in court, the parties are afforded the opportunity to advocate for their positions in a reasonable and timely manner. However, the process and content admitted is largely controlled by courtroom procedural guidelines, and the ultimate decision-making power lies with the judge hearing the case.
Although mediators typically encourage the parties to focus on the legally-relevant material, the mediation process affords the parties to discuss issues which may not be admissible in court. While judges typically prefer to defer to traditional practice norms, mediation allows the parties to negotiate for customizable solutions based on their unique goals and needs. Decisions made by a judge are legally binding, while the purpose of mediation is simply to facilitate discussion between the parties, resulting in a mutually agreeable settlement.
Although mediators do work with the goal of guiding the parties to a resolution, they cannot force the parties into an agreement. In meditation, the ultimate power lies with the parties. As a result, parties who settle through mediation are often more satisfied with the outcome of their case than those who litigate their divorce and are bound by the ruling of a judge.
Litigation is an inherently adversarial process. Mediation, on the other hand, is designed to facilitate a mutually agreeable compromise. Mediators encourage the parties to work together to develop a plan which incorporates each side's needs and interests. Ending a divorce through mutual collaboration and respect sets the foundation for an amicable post-divorce relationship between the parties, which is particularly beneficial for those who share children and will have to continue co-parenting after the resolution of their case.
As previously mentioned, clients who settle through mediation tend to be more satisfied with the outcome of their case than those who finalize their divorce through litigation. As you might imagine, clients typically find it more palatable to abide by the terms of an agreement when they had a hand in creating it. Research shows that mediated agreements garner higher rates of compliance than those that have been court-ordered.
Written by: Katie Morgan Johnson