What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Alternative Dispute Resolution, usually referred to as ADR, offers parties a way to resolve their differences without going to court. In the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, parties are encouraged to, and in some cases required to, try a method of ADR known as mediation.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process where a neutral third party, known as the mediator, helps parties to resolve a conflict. Some benefits of mediation include:
- Less formal than court.
- Promotes communication and cooperation.
- Benefits children by reducing conflict.
- Private and confidential – avoids public disclosure of personal problems and the stress of a traditional courtroom battle.
- May be completed in less time than litigation, saving you time and costly litigation expenses.
The mediator is not a judge and has no authority to make a decision or force the parties to settle their case. Whether you settle is entirely up to you and the other party. Mediation is an alternative to court in which YOU have control over the final outcome.
I’ve been ordered to go to mediation. What do I do?
Read the order carefully. It is a court order and you are required to obey it. The order outlines all of the steps that you need to take and what you need to bring to your mediation:
(1) Pick a mediator. You can select a private mediator approved by the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution who practices in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit. Here in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, we are fortunate to have a great number of well-qualified mediators with a range of skillsets, including former judges, attorneys, and laypersons with a wealth of experience in different industries. You and the opposing party are encouraged to agree on a mediator; if you can’t agree, your case will be automatically assigned a mediator by the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program Director.
(2) Schedule the mediation. You have ten days from the date of the court order to select a mediator and start the scheduling process with him/her. You must then contact the ADR Program at (912) 876-8527 to let them know whom you have selected. In most cases, you have 120 days from the date of the order to complete the mediation; please keep this deadline in mind as you select a mediator and schedule the mediation.
(3) Prepare for the mediation. The better prepared you are for the mediation, the more likely you are to succeed and settle your case. You can prepare for the mediation by thinking about your specific interests that you want to be addressed during the mediation. Outline the points that you would like to make to the opposing party and to the mediator. Gather all of the documents that are relevant to your position in the case (e.g., tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, business records, and documents related to property values and account balances). In domestic cases (e.g., divorce, legitimation, and modification), you must complete a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit before the mediation and bring it with you. (If you need help completing the Affidavit, you’re encouraged to seek the advice of a lawyer).
(4) Participate in the mediation. While you aren’t required to settle at the mediation, you are required to attend and participate in good faith. Lawyers are not required to attend the mediation, but they are allowed and encouraged to do so. The mediation process involves only the parties and their attorneys. The presence of others (witnesses, new spouses, family members, etc.) may create ill feelings even before the mediation begins, so please think twice before asking people to accompany you to the mediation location. Children are not allowed in the mediation session and childcare is not provided.
(5) Reach an agreement at mediation or go to court. If the parties don’t reach an agreement at mediation, the case will proceed normally through the court process. Judges favor mediation but will not hold a failed mediation against either party. The content of the mediation is confidential and judges are not informed of the reasons for a failed mediation.
How much does mediation cost?
Parties who believe that they qualify for a fee waiver should contact ADR Program Director. Court-approved private mediators charge market rates. For more information regarding court-approved private mediators, including their rates, click here.
How long does mediation take?
Most mediations are completed within 2-4 hours, sometimes less. If the issues are complex, the mediation may take more time or require multiple sessions.
Can I be exempted from mediation?
Certain cases will be exempted from mediation at the request of one or both parties. For more information on exemption, please contact the Atlantic Judicial Circuit ADR Office at (912) 876-8527
I’d like my case to be mediated but have not received a mediation order. Can I participate in mediation?
Please contact the Atlantic Judicial Circuit ADR Office at (912) 876-8527