Mediations are an ideal way to settle divorce, custody and other family law cases.
Mediations are required in Georgia before a final hearing or trial. Some judges even require mediation before a temporary hearing can be scheduled. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will help select the best mediator for your case and will be present with you throughout the mediation.
Family law lawyers mediate cases all the time and are familiar with the skill set and style of most mediators. For example, if I know the other party is hardheaded and unreasonable, I am going to insist that we have a very outspoken and strong mediator. If one party is uncomfortable around women in authority positions and not likely to pay attention to what a female mediator has to say, I am going to push for a male mediator. Before I schedule mediation, I look at the parties, the lawyers and the issues and try to identify mediators who are most likely to be able to successfully mediate the case. Then I prepare my client.
Clients need to understand that the mediator is not their lawyer. So the client must listen to and follow my instructions and give due consideration what the mediator has to say but understand that only your lawyer is representing your interests at mediation. Mediation is an opportunity for a lawyer with strong negotiation skills to shine and to get you the best outcome you can get without having to pay the additional legal fees to prepare for trial and rolling the dice at trial. There are some things that I do to help clients prepare for mediation that I only share with my clients. If you are already a client, ask for a copy of my eBook on “Mediation Secrets for Success.”
Regardless of the case, you need to prepare in advance for mediation by gathering all of your up-to-date financial records for your wages, taxes, credit cards, bank accounts, mutual and stock funds, 401ks, IRAs and pensions. You should also have a current estimate of the fair market value of your home and all boats, motorcycles and motor vehicles owned by the parties. And up-to-date means up-to-the-minute, not records from six months ago. If you own a business, you must bring all relevant financial records for the business and the business assets to mediation.
There is nothing mysterious about mediation. A typical mediation will start with a joint meeting with the lawyers and the parties. If you bring a friend or family member to mediation, he or she will not be allowed to sit in on the mediation.
Everyone who attends the mediation has to acknowledge in writing that the mediation is confidential and if the parties are unsuccessful at mediation they cannot repeat anything in court that they learned at the mediation. Once the parties acknowledge the confidentiality of the mediation process and the impartial role of the mediator and their obligation to pay the mediator at the close of the mediation, the mediator typically meets with each side independently to determine what they are seeking to resolve the case. The mediator then works with the parties to discuss how realistic each party's expectations are for resolving the case. The parties remain in separate rooms throughout the remainder of the mediation while the mediator works to come up with creative solutions for trying to resolve the case.
Surprisingly, mediators tend to be very good at getting cases resolved because they are have years of experience handling family law cases, are familiar with the presiding judges and are trained to think outside the box. The key to a successful mediation is being prepared, having copies of all financial documents organized and ready to discuss and keeping an open mind.
For more information, contact our experienced Georgia family law attorneys.