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How Does Mediation Differ From The Court Process?

Mediation is where you have a third party neutral who meets with both clients and both attorneys. The mediator is an unbiased professional that knows nothing about the case and his or her role is to facilitate negotiations so that there can be some middle ground consensus that is reached between both of the parties so that it’s not necessary to have a judge or a jury decides those issues for them.

Some counties have mandatory mediation before you can go for a contested hearing, which really is not a bad idea. I’ve had many cases over the years where I’ve gone in thinking that this case has no hope of ever settling and then we wind up having a good mediator who actually does get it settled.

Mediation is very helpful. Of course you’re paying your lawyers and you’re paying the mediator for their time, but typically that is much less expensive than a trial and studies have shown over the years that people are happier with agreements that they have been able to come up with as opposed to a judgment that is just imposed on them after a hearing.

So, if people are happier with the results of a mediation, well, first of all, they’re more likely to abide by the major points that they’ve reached in the mediation and a resulting court order and the parties are going to happier, typically the children are going to be happier too so it’s typically a win-win situation.

Of course there are times when you go through mediation and you’re not successful, the parties aren’t able to reach an agreement or sometimes they can reach an agreement on some issues but not others, but even when that is the case, I still find it helpful because it gives me a chance to interface with the other attorney and the other party and I’m able to observe their demeanor and have an idea of how they and their particular claims would play out in court, so I don’t ever feel like it’s the waste of time if we go for mediation and it doesn’t settle.

Should People Plan Ahead When Contemplating A Divorce?

As much as they can, sometimes they don’t have that luxury if they’re hit out of the blue with divorce papers but to the greatest extent, they can plan ahead. That always helps because what often happens is in a situation where marriage is breaking down, things can start changing really fast as far as the stability of the home environment and finances and that kind of thing and the more that you can control to the best of your ability as far as planning goes, then that’s less factors that you have to worry about or you’re not having control over.

Does The Mother Automatically Get Full Custody If There Are Kids Involved?

In some parts of the south, that’s true. The US Supreme Court issued a decision on that years ago that said that there is no presumption that either sex is a better parent and that any presumption that a mother is better suited for custody than a father is gender bias and it’s unconstitutional. The custody statute in Georgia says that the court must start with the presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the children and then make a finding otherwise. A lot of people don’t know that because there are many judges here that still really do not like the idea of joint custody.

There are still unfortunately a lot of judges that are very biased in favor of the mother and even though that flies against what our state law and federal law says, a divorce court judge has a great deal of discretion in deciding custody. So, you are really at the mercy of the judge that you’re assigned to and his or her particular thoughts and perceptions and biases as far as custody goes. I know it’s not like that as much in other parts of the country but that still really is the prevailing attitude with a lot of judges in the south.

How Can Custody Battles Be Prevented In A Divorce?

The only way for that to happen is for both the parents to be able to agree on custody. If the parents can agree on custody, then that takes a decision away from the judge. In Georgia, only a judge can decide custody; that is not a jury issue.

Now, it still is up to the judge once two people have decided on the custody and they present an agreement to the court on it, it is still up to the judge to approve the custody agreement, and there are some judges that won’t approve a joint custody arrangement like week on, week off type of situation. For the most part though, the majority of judges are going to be happy that two litigants in front of them have come up with their own agreement and usually they’re going to sign off on an agreement that two parties present as their custody agreement.

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