As many potential clients search for ways to reduce the costs associated with divorce, many contemplate delaying retaining a divorce attorney until the latter stages of the divorce process, such as after mediation. Many metro Atlanta courts now require divorce litigants to attend mandatory mediation sessions early in the divorce process, often as soon as the opposing spouse has filed an answer to the divorce complaint/ petition and prior to the completion of the discovery (information gathering) process. The purpose of mediation is for the parties to attempt to resolve their divorce-related issues in a non-adversarial process. Mediation is conducted by a mediator, an individual who has an educational background and/or training in dispute resolution. A mediator may be a psychologist or even a lawyer. It is important to note, however, that regardless of a mediator’s background and/or training, he or she does not serve as an advocate or attorney for either party during the mediation. This means that it is not the mediator’s role to ensure that the parties’ mediated agreement is “fair” to either or both parties.
Further, a mediator cannot provide tax advice or otherwise counsel parties on the future implications of any agreement reached. Therefore, not having your own divorce attorney at a mediation can be especially problematic when there are significant assets and/or complex issue involved, such as the division of business interests, real estate, and substantial marital debt. Additionally, as mediation costs vary between $150 and $300 an hour and the costs are split between the parties, many unrepresented clients feel pressure to reach an agreement as quickly as possible to save costs. At the conclusion of mediation, parties who reach an agreement enter into what is called a “Mediated Agreement.” These mediated agreements are enforceable, and even parties who act as their own attorneys may have a very limited opportunity, if at all, to reconsider or rescind the agreement. Therefore, in a haste to save costs and quickly “resolve” their case, many pro se clients will have resolved their case against their best interest with no recourse. Therefore, it is best to retain experienced legal counsel early in the divorce process and certainly before attending mediation.
The Faucette Law Firm handles all matters related to contested and uncontested divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, adoptions and modifications. We serve the Atlanta, Douglasville, Marietta, Smyrna and Lithia Springs areas. Contact our law firm today for a consultation.