Learn how divorce mediation works in Georgia, including when you might be ordered to mediate with your spouse, how much mediation costs, and what happens after mediation.
Many Georgians facing the end of their marriage find that mediation can help reduce the cost and conflict of divorce. In divorce mediation, a neutral, trained professional meets with both spouses (either in person or remotely) and helps them come up with solutions to the important issues in their divorce—solutions they can agree on.
- When Can You Use Divorce Mediation in Georgia?
- When Does Georgia Require Divorce Mediation?
- How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost in Georgia?
- How Does Divorce Mediation Work in Georgia?
- Is Divorce Mediation Appropriate in Cases Involving Domestic Violence?
- Completing Your Georgia Divorce After Mediation
When Can You Use Divorce Mediation in Georgia?
Mediation is an option at any stage in the process of ending a marriage—including after the divorce is final.
Mediation Before Filing for a Georgia Divorce
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce in Georgia, you'll need to reach an agreement with your spouse about the following issues:
- how you'll divide up your marital property and debts
- whether one of you will pay the other alimony, and if so, how much and how long; and
- how you'll handle custody, visitation, and child support, if you have minor or dependent children.
If the two of you can't work out all the details on your own, a mediator can help you get to an agreement. When you take the path of mediation at this stage of the process, it's more likely that you'll be able to avoid—or at least minimize—the conflicts and resentments that often crop up during a traditional, contested (or "litigated") divorce. (Learn more about the pros and cons of divorce mediation.)
Finally, when mediation before filing leads to a complete divorce settlement agreement (known as a marital settlement agreement in Georgia), you can probably get through the rest of the process without hiring a lawyer.
Mediation During the Divorce
You can also turn to mediation anytime during your Georgia divorce proceeding. In fact, the judge might order you to participate in the process (more on that below).
It's worth pointing out that some spouses who were initially reluctant to engage in mediation become more open to the idea after certain facts have come to light during "discovery" (a stage in litigation that allows spouses to get information and documents from each other). That's probably why the Georgia Supreme Court recommends that judges refer cases to mediation at the point when the discovery process has started to give spouses a realistic view about the strengths and weaknesses of their positions.
Mediation After Divorce Is Final
As most divorced people will tell you, a final divorce judgment doesn't necessarily end legal disputes between exes. Maybe one parent wants to move far away with the kids, which would require a change in the co-parenting arrangements. Or either ex might want to change the amount of child support or alimony payments.
You can avoid expensive court battles over these requests to change (or "modify") the original divorce orders by working out an agreement—and mediation can help you reach that agreement.
When Does Georgia Require Divorce Mediation?
In Georgia counties with "alternate dispute resolution" (ADR) programs, judges may order any contested divorce cases to an appropriate form of ADR—usually mediation. Judges may still refer cases to mediation in counties without these programs, but only if it's reasonably available without additional cost to the spouses (more on the cost question below). (Ga. Code § 19-5-1 (2021).)
You can request to have your divorce case removed from mediation after you've been ordered to participate, but it will be up to the judge to decide whether to grant or deny that request.
Other than these statewide rules, requirements for mediation during divorce proceedings vary from county to county. Some Georgia counties require that anyone involved in a contested divorce or other domestic case must schedule mediation soon after the original petition is filed, unless they get an exemption from a judge.
Once you've been referred to mediation, court staff should give you the details about what comes next, including how to choose a mediator.
How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost in Georgia?
The price tag for divorce mediation will depend on the circumstances—especially whether you get the service through a court's ADR program, a nonprofit organization, or a private mediator or mediation service.
Fees for Mediation Through Georgia's Courts
When a judge has ordered you to mediation during your divorce proceedings—or when you request a referral to court-connected mediation at any point after filing for divorce—the court's program will usually provide at least a certain amount of mediation at reduced cost. If the program requires any payment, it must allow fee waivers for those who can't afford to pay.
As with the requirements for divorce mediation, the cost of court-connected mediation varies from county to county. For example:
- DeKalb County's ADR program provides up to two hours of free mediation in divorce and other family cases. Anyone who wants more time will need to pay the mediator's private fee (more on those costs below).
- In Fulton County, you and your spouse will each pay $115 to the ADR Office for the first mediation session (up to three hours). After that, the mediator's regular rate applies.
- When you have a disputed divorce, custody, or other family case in Clayton County, you'll generally pay the rate charged by the mediator you've selected from the state's roster. If you've been assigned a mediator (because you and your spouse couldn't decide one), the assigned fee will be at least $100 per hour (split between you and your spouse).
The Cost of Private Divorce Mediation
Several factors affect the cost of divorce mediation with a private mediator or mediation service, including:
- the mediator's professional background (for instance, mediators who are lawyers usually charge more than other types of professionals)
- the complexity of your finances and other issues in your case, and
- how much you and your spouse are willing to cooperate and compromise.
The total cost typically ranges from $3,000 to $8,000 (which is usually split between both spouses). If that sounds like a lot, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Even if your county offers free or low-cost mediation, that will be available only after you already have a contested case in the courts. That means you'll have to navigate the legal system on your own or hire a lawyer. But you may use private mediation before you file a divorce petition. If you reach an agreement, you can then get to your final divorce more quickly. Some private mediation services will also help prepare all the paperwork and file it with the court, simplifying the process.
- Low-cost mediation through the courts is usually limited to one session, while the typical total cost of private mediation is based on multiple sessions. Unless you have relatively few issues to work out in mediation, you're likely to need more than one session to come up with a complete settlement agreement.
- Also, compared to the expense of going to trial, the total cost of divorce will almost always be much lower when you can reach a complete settlement in mediation.
How Does Divorce Mediation Work in Georgia?
Most divorce mediation follows the same basic stages, including:
- gathering information about your finances, property, children, and other details
- identifying what each spouse wants and needs
- exploring possible solutions to your disagreements, and
- negotiating a settlement agreement.
The mediator will usually prepare a document that reflects any agreements you're reached with your spouse.
Divorce mediation in Georgia is confidential, with very limited exceptions. That means that the mediator may not reveal—to a judge or anyone else—anything you say before or during mediation, or share any documents you've provided. The exceptions to this rule include:
- the written and signed settlement agreement
- information and documents that must legally be shared during the discovery process (such as statements about your income and assets)
- violent threats, or
- when the mediator believes someone is in danger or a child has been abused.
Is Divorce Mediation Appropriate in Cases Involving Domestic Violence?
In divorce mediation, both spouses should be able to speak up and negotiate freely, without feeling pressured or afraid. That's why mediation is almost always inappropriate when there's ongoing domestic violence or abuse in a relationship.
When a divorce case is referred to mediation in Georgia, court staff must conduct a screening for any domestic violence or abuse. Ultimately, these staff members will decide whether mediation is appropriate, but they must give "great weight" to the preferences of the spouse who appears to be at risk of abuse. If the mediation goes forward, there must be certain safeguards in place to protect the at-risk spouse.
If you choose to go forward with mediation despite a history of abuse from your spouse, you can ask to meet with the mediator separately from your spouse (even if you use online mediation).
Completing Your Georgia Divorce After Mediation
If you've reached an agreement in mediation, the next step will be to file the paperwork with the court. Check with the family division of your local superior court for information about the forms you'll need to file in your county. (As noted above, some mediators and services help with this step.)
If you've included the terms of your settlement agreement in the initial paperwork when you file for divorce, you might be able to ask the judge to grant your divorce without a hearing (by filing a form called a "Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings").
However, depending on your case and the requirements in your county, you may have to attend a brief hearing in court. A judge will ask you some questions, review your paperwork, and approve it if everything is in order—paying particular attention to whether provisions concerning your children appear to be in their best interests. The court will then issue a final divorce decree.
What If Divorce Mediation Fails?
Even if a judge has ordered you to participate in the process, you never have to agree to anything in mediation. But if you don't reach a complete settlement agreement—either during mediation or later in the divorce process (typically through your lawyers)—you will have to go to trial to have a judge make a decision for you about any issues that are still in dispute.
How do I prepare for divorce mediation in Georgia? ›
- Come with relevant and organized financial documents. ...
- Try to maintain control of your emotions. ...
- Be prepared to negotiate. ...
- Ensure you and your attorney have the same goal in mind. ...
- Come with a planned budget. ...
- Be aware of your rights and possible obligations.
For a successful mediation, it's important to listen and acknowledge what the other party has to say, utilise the flexibility of the process and look forward. Listen to each other and your children, consider your children's, your own and each other's feelings and be open to resolving issues amicably.”What can I expect from a divorce mediation in Georgia? ›
Divorce Mediation Process
During mediation, both parties will meet with their attorneys in the same or separate rooms, and a mediator will help the two parties' compromise when possible. A mediator is usually a retired judge or attorney and has no legal grounds to make final decisions or judgements.
Avoid saying alienating things, and say difficult things in the least alienating way possible. Set ground rules to avoid attacking openings. Remember that avoiding saying unwelcome things, by having the mediator say them, merely transfers the other party's resentment from counsel to the mediator.How long after mediation is divorce final in Georgia? ›
This process typically takes 180 days from start to finish. Most counties require you to have mediation prior to a final hearing. Many of our clients can reach a settlement at this kind of proceeding.What if mediation fails in divorce? ›
What are the consequences of a failed mediation? Nothing – a failed mediation just goes to court.What kind of questions do mediators ask? ›
Some of the questions that a mediator ought to ask counsel for the parties during the mediation include the following. What are your/your client's goals for this mediation? What would help you achieve your goals? What are the obstacles to resolving the dispute?What is the success rate of mediation? ›
Around 75-80% of cases settle on the day of the mediation itself and another 10-15% settle shortly after. Mediation has an extremely high success rate with 86% of all cases being settled. The process allows the parties to negotiate their own settlement, giving them control of the entire process.How do you emotionally prepare for divorce mediation? ›
- Let go of the need to win.
- Ask yourself what you really want.
- Focus on the future, not the past.
- Prepare for emotional triggers.
- Be mindful of your partner's emotions.
- Take care of yourself.
The total cost typically ranges from $3,000 to $8,000 (which is usually split between both spouses). If that sounds like a lot, here are a few things to keep in mind: Even if your county offers free or low-cost mediation, that will be available only after you already have a contested case in the courts.
Is mediation mandatory in Georgia? ›
Mediations are required in Georgia before a final hearing or trial. Some judges even require mediation before a temporary hearing can be scheduled. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will help select the best mediator for your case and will be present with you throughout the mediation.How long does a contested divorce take in Georgia? ›
Theoretically it's possible to get a divorce in Georgia is as little as 31 days. The reality for an uncontested divorce in Georgia is six months to one year from filing to receiving your final decree. A contested divorce in Georgia can range from six months to several years.What happens if we can't agree on anything during meditation? ›
If the mediation process fails, and you do not reach an agreement or settlement, you can still bring the issue to court. Parties do not relinquish their right to litigation if they wish to resolve the dispute in mediation first.How do you negotiate a settlement in mediation? ›
- Get to the table.
- Pick the right time to mediate.
- Choose the right mediator.
- Have pre-mediation conferences.
- Set aside sufficient time.
- Prepare your client.
- Prepare a powerful position paper.
- Insist on full settlement authority.
- Contact a good lawyer familiar with narcissistic behavior.
- Limit contact with your ex as much as possible, ideally only communicating during the mediation process. ...
- Avoid playing the game, if at all possible.
- Remain as calm as you can. ...
- Document everything.
Generally, it does not make a difference. The party who does not file the Complaint for Divorce has the opportunity to file an Answer to the Complaint and Counterclaim for Divorce requesting the same things as the filing party (ex: child custody, child support, alimony, equitable division of property).How long does it take to get a divorce if both parties agree? ›
A divorce or dissolution will take at least 6 months to complete, even if your circumstances are straightforward. It might take longer if you need to sort out issues with money, property or children. These things will be dealt with separately to your divorce or dissolution.What does mediation involve in a divorce? ›
Mediation is a way of sorting any differences between you and your ex-partner, with the help of a third person who won't take sides. The third person is called a mediator. They can help you reach an agreement about issues with money, property or children. You can try mediation before going to a solicitor.What is failed mediation? ›
A mediation can fail. If the parties leave a mediation in a worse position than when they arrived, that would be a failure. If the mediation process is not structured so as to allow people to get the information that they need to make an informed decision about whether to settle, that would be a failure.What if a mediator is biased? ›
If you feel that the mediator was biased toward your spouse, you do not have to agree to any of the settlements made in mediation. Mediation is nonbinding, and can only be entered into with the consent of both parties.
What happens if mediation is refused? ›
Costs risk if you unreasonably refuse to mediate – You should expect the court to impose costs sanctions if you ignore or unreasonably turn down an invitation to mediate or indeed if you fail to consider mediation at all.How much is divorce mediation in GA? ›
The total cost typically ranges from $3,000 to $8,000 (which is usually split between both spouses). If that sounds like a lot, here are a few things to keep in mind: Even if your county offers free or low-cost mediation, that will be available only after you already have a contested case in the courts.Is mediation required in GA? ›
Mediations are required in Georgia before a final hearing or trial. Some judges even require mediation before a temporary hearing can be scheduled. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will help select the best mediator for your case and will be present with you throughout the mediation.Do you have to have mediation before divorce? ›
You don't have to go to mediation, but if you end up having to go to court to sort out your differences, you normally need to prove you've been to a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM). This is an introductory meeting to explain what mediation is and how it might help you.How do I file for an uncontested divorce in Georgia? ›
- Gather Your Information. ...
- Complete the Paperwork. ...
- File Your Paperwork with the Court. ...
- Pay Your Filing Fees. ...
- Serve the Complaint. ...
- Complete and Exchange Financial Disclosures. ...
- Complete a Settlement Agreement. ...
- If You Have Children.
No one can be forced to mediate as it is a voluntary process! Again, however, where parties decline to mediate, the judge will certainly be interested in why the parties have come to this decision.What is mediation Georgia? ›
Mediation is a legal term often heard in discussions surrounding family law, but is is simply a form of dispute resolution. It is a way in which the parties negotiate with the help of a mediator in the hopes of reaching agreement on issues outside the courtroom.What is divorce mediation? ›
Mediation is an informal dispute settlement process run by a trained third party, called a mediator. Mediation is intended to bring two parties together to clear up misunderstandings, find out concerns, and reach a resolution. The process is voluntary.Can mediation notes be used in court? ›
Mediation is private and confidential and details discussed in mediation or agreements reached cannot usually be disclosed or used against you at any subsequent court hearings. Any financial information that is produced is open information and can be used outside the mediation setting.Are mediators always neutral? ›
A mediator today is generally expected to be neutral – an ideal situation, which cannot be easily attained. It is important that focus is kept on the mediation process and not the mediator.
Is arbitration binding in Georgia? ›
In Georgia, all arbitration is non-binding. This means that the arbitration decision is not binding if either party may demands a trial within a specified period.What can I do if my ex refuses to go to mediation? ›
If your ex-partner is reluctant to mediate, you should try and convince them to speak with a mediator in the first instance. This may help to avoid any initial tension of facing each other and provide your ex-partner with an opportunity to find out how the process works and whether it is appropriate for them.What are the 3 types of mediation? ›
The three main styles of mediation are evaluative, facilitative, and transformative.How long does it take to hear from mediation? ›
Mediation can be concluded in one session, after a number of weeks or a number of months depending on your needs. It is much more flexible than Court proceedings which can easily take six to 12 months to resolve, if not longer.Does it matter who files for divorce first in Georgia? ›
Generally, it does not make a difference. The party who does not file the Complaint for Divorce has the opportunity to file an Answer to the Complaint and Counterclaim for Divorce requesting the same things as the filing party (ex: child custody, child support, alimony, equitable division of property).Who gets the house in a divorce in Georgia? ›
During divorce in Georgia, separate property is typically retained its original owner. Marital property, on the other hand, is subject to division according to the principle of equitable distribution. This means that the property is divided between the spouses according to what is “equitable,” or fair.Do you have to separate before divorce in Georgia? ›
In order to file a divorce in Georgia, you first have to be legally “separated”. But this does not mean that you or your spouse has to move out of the marital residence. Under Georgia law, you simply have to suspend “marital relations” with the intention to divorce.