Q. What is mediation?
A. Mediation is a confidential and informal dispute resolution process in which a mediator facilitates settlement discussions between the disputing parties. Unlike a judge in a trial, the mediator does not impose a decision upon the parties but rather allows parties to explore their concerns, identify areas that must reach resolution and creatively explore a variety of ways to resolve the dispute to their satisfaction. Mediation allows the parties to remain in control of their lives through a decision making process that encourages mutually acceptable solutions that the parties can fall back on should future problems arise. Settlement agreements from mediation are enforceable in the same manner as any other written contract.
Q. Who pays for mediation?
A. Effective January 1, 2012, the cost of mediation through the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution is $75 per party, which covers a mediation of up to 4 hours. Domestic Mediations held in chambers at the time of a Family Division Status Conference hearing will continue to be provided at no cost to the parties, and mediations involving property tax appeals will also be free to the parties. Fee waivers are available to parties who are not represented by legal counsel and who qualify financially.
Q. How long does mediation take?
A. The time required for mediation depends on the nature and complexity of the dispute and the number of parties involved. Mediation could last 1-4 hours and often times even longer. The parties may choose to mediate beyond 4 hours, but will be responsible for paying the mediator directly for any time beyond 4 hours. The mediator will disclose his or her private rate before the mediation begins.
Q. How are cases referred to mediation?
A. In Fulton County, parties may be ordered to mediation or parties may request mediation through the judge or through the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Either may be done at any stage of the case.
In the Family Division, when parties cannot reach an agreement, parties routinely participate in mediation at no cost on the day they report for their 30, 60, or 120-day status conference. If an agreement is reached through mediation at that time, the judge or judicial officer will review the agreement and if approved, it shall be entered as an order of the court.
Regardless of how a case is referred to mediation, reaching and signing an agreement is strictly voluntary and if the parties do not reach a settlement agreement, they do not lose their right to a trial.
Q. Are all cases appropriate for mediation?
A. Although most cases can benefit from mediation, some cases might be better handled through the formal litigation process. These include lawsuits in which:
Since the successful use of mediation depends on both parties being able to make decisions on their own, mediation may also not be appropriate when:
If you have a case and you think that it may not be appropriate for mediation, you are encouraged to speak with a Court ADR Specialist in the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution. You may reach someone at 404-612-4549.
Q. Is mediation confidential?
A. Confidentiality is a core value of the mediation process. It is confidential both by law and by agreement. However, if parties reach a settlement agreement, the written and executed agreement or memorandum of agreement is not subject to confidentiality, unless all parties to the proceeding agree so in writing.
Confidentiality does not include: