Mediation – Divorce & Domestic Relations Cases

Divorce cases often involve not only the division of the assets and allocation of financial matters but also a complex mixture of the emotions of the parties, the history of the relationship and the future needs of each of the parties. And, where children are involved, a whole new level of complexity is added as the parties must try to see to the best interest of the children, and the parties often do not agree to what is in the best interest of the children. Each party perceives his or her needs from their own perspective, and, often, each party places a different level of importance to each issue.

To further complicate matters, even though the parties to a divorce have already separated from each other and may be leading separate lives, they often still must have contact with the soon to be former spouse in matters related to finances, child support, visitation, debt payment and other issues. This required or forced contact may even continue for many years after the divorce is final.

Because of the nature of the mediation process and the goal of reaching an agreed to resolution of issues, mediation in the divorce cases becomes a powerful tool for the parties and their attorneys to both shape a result that can both definitively resolve disputes over assets, custody, debts and other issues and also provide a basis for future contact between the parties on a more cooperative basis. Like mediation of other disputes, mediation in divorce cases is a voluntary 1 process through which parties with adverse interest seek to find a mutually acceptable resolution by utilizing an independent and unbiased third party as a mediator. By its nature, mediation is typically unstructured and informal. Mediation gives the parties themselves the ability to voluntarily determine the ultimate resolution of their dispute.

In Georgia, a registered divorce case mediator is trained as a civil case mediator and then receives extensive additional training specifically designed to help the mediator in dealing with divorce issues and cases. Most divorce case mediators also have years of experience representing clients in divorce, child custody and other domestic relation cases. This combination of training and experience gives the mediator the ability and incite to help the parties find alternatives and resolutions to difficult problems.

Mediation in divorce cases offers the parties to a dispute a number of distinct advantages over other methods of dispute resolution. Of particular importance in domestic cases are the following:

1. It is private. Divorce cases frequently involve very private, personal matters including the conduct, emotions, feelings, faults, finances or needs of the parties. The parties, their counsel, the mediator and, if applicable, a guardian ad litem are the only participants. No one else is allowed to hear, sit in on or participate in the mediation unless both parties agree to their presence.

2. It is confidential. The mediator will never divulge confidential information to the opposing party or others without the consent of the party making the disclosure. The mediator does not keep records of or notes made during the mediation. The mediator cannot be forced to testify in court about the mediation 2.

3. It avoids some of the stress and anxiety of a trial. Most parties in a contested divorce or domestic relations case have very limited experience in court proceedings. Frequently parties experience a high level of anxiety at just appearing in court, and the stress of a trial is sometimes overwhelming. Mediation gives the parties a chance to resolve issues in a more relaxed and less confrontational environment.

4. It avoids the “winner-take-all” decision which is often the result of a trial. While judges and juries try to be fair to both parties, a trial decision will tend to be more limited in scope and “for” one party and “against” the other.

5. It allows the parties to broader range of expression of their respective interests. A judge or a jury will make a decision based only on what is presented to them. At mediation, a party may much more fully and effectively express his or her concerns, emotions, needs, fears, etc.

6. It gives the parties a chance to “buy into” and to have ownership of the settlement. The parties have a role in the decision-making process and in the outcome of the case. Where the parties have to have continuing contact with each other after the divorce, this will help them to abide by the settlement agreement and to cooperate with each other.

Successful mediation in divorce cases requires that the mediator have special skills, experience, training, and personality. Mr. Segraves has all of those skills, and is adept at applying them to difficult and complex disputes. As an attorney with over 30 years of legal experience, he has first hand knowledge of the divorce litigation process and mediation in divorce cases. He understands and is able to deal with clients of diverse backgrounds, personalities, needs, and interest. He can help you to successfully resolve your case.

1.  Participation in mediation is required by the court prior to final hearings in most contested divorces cases in Georgia. It is usually considered to be “voluntary” since the parties only have to attend mediation and are not required resolve their dispute through settlement at mediation.

2.  There are limited exceptions to this rule where domestic violence or child involved.