Frequently Asked Questions in Domestic Relations Cases
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process by which a third, neutral person facilitates negotiations between other parties who are in conflict. Basically speaking, a mediator will help you try to find a mutually acceptable resolution. In mediation, the concern is not about who is at fault, but rather what can be done to settle the problem.
Is mediation mandatory?
Yes. In hopes that parties will be able to resolve their conflicts in mediation, all contested domestic relations cases (i.e., divorce, modification, contempt) must be submitted to the ADR Program prior to placement on a court calendar. This means that unless you have a signed agreement, you must attend a mediation session prior to a temporary hearing. Although you are ordered to appear for a mediation session, you are never required to reach an agreement in mediation. However, reaching an agreement in mediation could mean saving you time and money.
Why is mediation mandatory?
The ADR Program was established to assist parties in resolving their conflict. In domestic cases with children, the parents know what is best for their children and – given an opportunity – are happier making decisions for their family rather than having a judge or jury determine their fate. You control the outcome of the mediation session.
When does the mediation occur?
The mediation session should take place thirty (30) days after the date the answer is either filed or due, whichever comes first. A mediation session may be set prior to the filing of an answer with the consent of the Respondent/Defendant.
Where does the mediation occur?
The mediation session will usually be held in the county where the case is filed unless otherwise agreed upon. For example, if a case is filed in Fayette County, the mediation will either take place in the Fayette County Courthouse in Fayetteville or a mediator’s office located in Fayette County.
What is the role of the mediator?
The neutral/mediator will attempt to assist you in working out a solution that is fair, reasonable, and acceptable as a way to resolve the dispute. The mediator will not make any decisions for you, but rather help you and the other party determine what is the best course of action for all involved. The mediator will not act as a judge or jury and will not offer advice or predict outcomes.
How is the mediator chosen?
Parties may either select any mediator registered in the appropriate category with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution or have this office assign a mediator from the rotational list. Selection of a neutral may obligate parties to a higher hourly rate.
Is there a cost for mediation?
Yes. For those cases wherein a mediator has been chosen, parties agree to pay his/her selected rate. You will find information on each mediator as well as their selected rate in the neutral’s list which can be downloaded from this website. For those cases wherein a mediator is assigned by the ADR Office, the mediator can only charge up to $100.00 per hour to be divided equally between the parties. This office does provide for fee waiver and fee reductions. If you can not pay the mediation fees or need assistance, please contact this office immediately. Please note that all requests for fee waivers must be made at least three (3) days prior to the scheduled mediation date unless authorized by the ADR Director.
Why do I have to pay when I did not file the action?
Unless otherwise agreed upon, the mediation fees must be split equally between the parties. Although you did not file the action, you are still required to pay your costs of the mediation session. The mediation is being offered as a low-cost alternative to court litigation. Again, fee waivers and fee reductions are available for those who can not afford the cost of the mediation session.
How do I schedule mediation?
Although mediation is mandatory in all contested domestic cases, it is the responsibility of the parties to file the necessary paperwork with the ADR Office to schedule a mediation session. For each domestic case, this office needs a completed Mediation Initiation Form and Domestic Relations Screening Form along with the respective filing (i.e. complaint for divorce, answer to modification, etc.). All of our forms are available for download in the forms section of this website. You may hand-deliver, mail, fax, or email the required forms to our office.
How do I prepare myself for mediation?
Depending on the nature of your case, a financial affidavit may be needed at the mediation session. You will find a blank financial affidavit on this website available for download. Also in the forms section of the website is information on “How to prepare for domestic mediation”. This informational sheet goes into detail on what documents are needed for particular cases.
Do we have to be in the same room during the mediation?
No. If you are uncomfortable being in the same room with the other party, you or your attorney should contact this office and request separate rooms. It is normal for the mediator to separate the parties into separate rooms sometime during the mediation.
Who is allowed in the room at mediation?
Only the parties to the case as well as their respective attorneys and the mediator are allowed in the mediation session. New spouses, relatives, friends, etc., may accompany you to the mediation session but will not be allowed to participate in the session. You are free to consult with anyone during the mediation session.
Can I bring my children to the mediation?
No. Children should never be brought to the mediation session and will not be allowed to participate in mediation. There is no one at the mediation center or courthouse to supervise the children when you are in the room with the mediator. Prior childcare arrangements should be made for the mediation session.
I am a victim of domestic violence; do I have to attend mediation?
The ADR Office is required to screen each case for domestic violence. Screening procedures include questions on the initiation form, the domestic violence screening form, review of the pleadings when made available, and consultation with the alleging party. When domestic violence is made known, the decision of whether to mediate or not is left up to the victim. Family violence petitions and/or orders are never appropriate for mediation. Divorce cases wherein family violence petitions have been simultaneously filed may be mediated with the consent of the alleging party.
I don’t have an attorney or my attorney is not coming to the mediation session, what do I need to do?
While it is not mandatory, attorneys’ presence in mediation is definitely encouraged. Parties benefit from having their attorneys present for a number of reasons. However, not everyone is able to afford an attorney at mediation. Since the only requirement is your presence, once you have reviewed and signed the guidelines for mediation, you are free to terminate the session at any time. It is to your benefit, however, to see if anything can be worked out at the mediation session. If you do not have representation at the mediation session and you reach an agreement, you will be given an opportunity of three (3) days to have any agreement reviewed by an attorney. In the event your attorney deems the agreement to not be in your best interest or you simply change your mind, you or your attorney can rescind the agreement by notifying the ADR in writing. Since all of the communication in mediation is confidential with the exception of a written agreement, you are free to negotiate without the fear of being bound to any terms.