Divorce is a painful and difficult decision for any couple, even more so during the holiday season. But the legal process can escalate an already tense situation into a full-scale court battle that benefits neither party. Mediation offers couples an alternative to going through court – and the opportunity to resolve differences on their own terms, rather than by a third-party.
Lydia Sartain, a family law attorney partner with the Gainesville, Ga. law firm Stewart Melvin & Frost, tells us what couples filing for divorce should know about mediation and its potential for lessening conflict and avoiding an ugly fight in court.
Question: What is mediation and how is it different from going to court?
Lydia: There is no judge or jury to make decisions about you. Both sides use an independent mediator (usually lawyer) to facilitate settlement discussions. The parties through the mediator make compromises to reach an agreement. The parties decide their own outcome rather than a judge or jury.
Question: What make mediation a good idea for divorce cases?
Lydia: Mediation is always best course of action in reaching a divorce settlement. You still have your day in court. You can still vent. But you’re not bound to restraints and technicalities of the courtroom.
Mediation allows divorcing couples to come together in a positive light and decide settlement on their own terms. Typically, no one wins with a divorce settlement decided by an outside third-party. Mediation is clearly the most cost-efficient route. Divorcing couples typically can reach a settlement agreement for a fraction of the cost of going through the court system.
Mediation still allows you to be represented by an attorney who can provide direction and counsel. It is best to first meet individually with your attorney, then schedule a convenient time for the mediation session. Your attorney usually is familiar with traits of a professional mediator that best fit your personality and situation. With divorce cases in particular, look for mediator with training in Family Law.