Mediation is a process where a neutral third party, the mediator, facilitates settlement discussions between parties in conflict. The mediator has no authority to make a decision or impose a settlement upon the parties. The duty of the mediator is to facilitate communication and seek solutions so the parties may reach their own agreement. Any settlement is entirely voluntary.
In the absence of settlement, the parties retain the right to take their case before the court. However, even partial agreements can help the parties narrow the issues involved and limit the time and expense of going to court. The issues that cannot be resolved in mediation will be returned to the court and the assigned judge. Mediation is an alternative to court, in which YOU have control over the final outcome.
In Gwinnett County, normally the mediation session begins with all parties in a room with the mediator to discuss the guidelines of mediation. After the guidelines are discussed the mediator will meet with both parties and their respective attorneys separately to discuss the issues of the case. The mediator will usually meet with the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff's attorney first in a separate room. After meeting with the Plaintiff, the mediator will then meet with the Defendant and the Defendant's attorney. Mediation is not a hearing or a trial, but rather an informal setting where each party and his/her attorney are free to discuss the case with the mediator. The parties do not testify at mediation, nor are they asked questions by the opposing attorney. Only the parties and their attorneys are present at mediation. There are no witnesses. The average mediation session lasts between two and four hours, and the mediator is to be paid at the conclusion of the mediation session. Most cases in Gwinnett Superior Court are mediated at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center located at 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, GA 30046. Cases in other courts are often mediated at the office of the mediator.
BENEFITS OF MEDIATION
- Promotes communication and cooperation.
- Benefits children by reducing conflict.
- Private and confidential, thus avoiding public disclosure of personal problems and the stress and strain of a traditional courtroom battle.
- May be completed in less time than litigation, saving you costly litigation expenses.
CASES APPROPRIATE FOR MEDIATION
Mediation can be a beneficial alternative to trial in many different type cases and is especially so in cases where there are highly emotional issues involved or where there is a continuing business or personal relationship.
Mediation is beneficial to parties regarding disputes during and after divorce, particularly when children are involved. A mediator helps focus the parents on the needs of the children and make decisions that are in their best interest. Mediation facilitates solutions for the day to day care of children, division of property, and financial arrangements. However, if violence has occurred during a relationship, the case may not be appropriate for mediation, and the Office of Dispute Resolution should be contacted before considering mediation.
Mediation can be beneficial in almost any type of civil case ranging from contracts to personal injuries. Cases where there is a continuing personal or business relationship or where there are highly emotional issues involved are particularly suitable. Mediation allow you to draft creative resolutions that better satisfy all parties.
LENGTH OF MEDIATION
The length of the mediation and the possibility of additional sessions will vary according to the case and number of issues involved. Plan to spend a minimum of two hours at your initial session. Average mediation sessions run from two to four hours.
COST OF MEDIATION
The mediators set their own fees, and fees range from $150 to $300 dollars per hour. The fee for a mediation session is divided by all of the parties and is to be paid at the end of the mediation session.
Mediation is not a substitute for legal advice and the mediator does not give legal or financial advice. The mediator focuses on helping participants reach their own agreements and does not represent either party. Lawyers advise their clients on the law and complete the legal process. If you are represented by counsel, generally counsel is required to be present for the mediation.
The mediation process will involve only the parties to the case and their attorneys. The presence of others may create animosity and ill feelings even before the mediation begins. Children are not allowed in the mediation session and child care is not provided.
You can prepare for mediation by determining your specific interests that need to be addressed in order to develop a settlement plan. Outline the issues you would like to convey to the opposing party and the mediator. Bring any documents you find relevant to your position.
In domestic cases, a copy of your financial affidavit must be filed with the court and brought to the mediation session. You may also need to bring business records, tax returns, documents relating to property values, and account balances. What you need to bring will depend on the issues involved in the dispute. Remember, a financial affidavit is always required. The better prepared you are for the mediation session, the more likely the chance of success.
ISSUES RESOLVED IN MEDIATION
If an agreement or partial agreement is reached, the mediator will prepare said agreement, and review same with the parties. Any issues that are not resolved in mediation will be returned to the assigned judge.
QUESTIONS REGARDING MEDIATION IN GWINNETT COUNTY
The Office of Dispute Resolution at:
Administrative Office of the Courts
75 Langley Drive
Lawrenceville, GA 30046-6900