There are only two ways to get divorced in Georgia. Contested cases are ultimately resolved by the Judge. This is where the husband and wife cannot reach an agreement on certain issues, such as child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, or dividing property. The Judge listens to both sides and makes a determination for the parties.
Contested cases can be very expensive. It is not uncommon for couples to spend tens of thousands of dollars getting divorced in this manner. Moreover, contested cases routinely last between six and eighteen months from start to finish. In fact, as a family law attorney, I have seen cases last several years.
Is there an alternative? Yes, uncontested cases are where the husband and wife are able to arrive at an agreement, whether it be before someone even files for divorce or just prior to seeing the judge for a final trial. Some couples are able to work out their differences, draft a formal agreement addressing all of the issues in the divorce, and present it to the court on their own.
However, a majority of couples need some assistance in discussing the relevant issues and coming up with a compromise that suits both of them. Communication remains the number one cause of divorce in this country so expecting to be able to discuss very sensitive issues with your spouse in a divorce setting may be very challenging. For this reason, there is a venue that is more formal than trying to discuss these issues with your soon-to-be ex at the kitchen table and less formal than going through a heated battle in court. It is called mediation.
Mediation is the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (a mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result. Courts strongly encourage parties to mediate not only because it saves time and money, but because it has been proven that parties are much more likely to follow the terms of an agreement (that is made a court order) than a court’s mandate after a contested trial.
An experienced mediator can save parties a lot of money and can also resolve the divorce in a much more expeditious manner. In fact, a vast majority of jurisdictions in the metropolitan Atlanta area require parties to first try mediation before they can even have the judge resolve their case. In addition to being a divorce lawyer, I am also a mediator. My firm assists husbands and wives reach agreements and prepare the necessary paperwork to present their case to the Judge in an uncontested manner. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how our firm can help.
By Benjamin Porter
The Porter Law Firm, LLC