Alternatives to Divorce Litigation

Alternatives to Divorce Litigation in Georgia: Arbitration & Court-Referred Mediation

In Georgia, state law dictates the process by which parties can pursue a divorce. For example, it outlines the particulars of who may be eligible to file for divorce, the underlying legal process related thereto, and several other important and related factors. However, it also provides a number of formalized procedures by which prospective divorce applicants can go their separate ways without the hassles associated with a traditional, more adversarial type divorce.

Specifically, under Georgia law, individuals contemplating a divorce are afforded the option to forego the standard divorce route by choosing either arbitration or a form of alternative dispute resolution known as court-referred mediation (private mediation is also an option however, for purposes of this article we are focusing on this specific form) to settle their marital differences. However, it is important to consider that the decision to choose one method over another depends upon a number of factors, including how well the parties are able to get along, the end result that each party is seeking, and the amount of money that the parties are willing and/or able to spend to obtain a resolution of their case.

While there are a number of inherent differences between arbitration and mediation, they both have a number of benefits in common, such as the fact that they typically are quicker to resolve, less expensive than a traditional divorce proceeding, and completely confidential. Notwithstanding, the differences between the two are significant and must be fully considered before choosing which path to follow. Accordingly, it is crucial to speak with a qualified Georgia family law attorney to guide you through the process and help you make a decision regarding what best fits in light of your specific set of circumstances.

What is Arbitration and the Benefits Associated With this Process?

There are two types of arbitration methods in Georgia: non-binding and binding arbitration. With respect to both forms of arbitration, a neutral arbitrator presides over the matter, hears both sides, and renders a final decision. In binding arbitration, the parties are generally unable to appeal a decision rendered by the arbitrator absent a showing of prejudice or bias. Conversely, in non-binding arbitration, the parties may appeal their case to a Georgia trial court however, if the arbitrator’s decision is consistent with the trial court’s ruling, the appealing party may be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees incurred by the party defending the appeal. In general, arbitration is most beneficial for parties that wish to avail themselves of the substantive finality of an arbitrator’s decision without having to expend significant amounts of money associated with a traditional divorce proceeding.

Regardless of the type of arbitration you ultimately choose, an experienced family law attorney is in the best position to assist you in fighting for your rights and protecting your legal interests during the entire process. Just because arbitration (whether binding or not) is a less formal type of setting does not mean that a lawyer is not necessary. Many times, people choose arbitration as a way of avoiding attorney’s fees yet later on realize that they should have had one from the beginning. The skills, experience and knowledge of an attorney are essential and should not be dismissed should arbitration be your preferred method of divorcing your spouse.

What is Court-Referred Mediation and How Can it Help Me?

After filing one’s case and prior to going to trial, a couple can opt for what is mentioned above as “court referred mediation”. This helps parties determine certain issues such as child support, child custody, alimony and other important aspects of a divorce case. This way, parties, especially with the assistance of an attorney, can try and resolve at least some of their major issues without having a judge decide them (which can have undesired results). In general, should parties choose to mediate the terms of their divorce in this manner, it is essential for them to realize that the mediator’s role is simply advisory. In other words, it is unlike arbitration where the arbitrator functions more like a judge and renders a final decision over the matter. Overall, mediation is most beneficial for parties that are able to cooperate with each other and work both inclusively and collaboratively to resolve their case. Moreover, it typically involves less research, paperwork and preparation and also allows the party to be heard, yet in a less acrimonious and time consuming manner. As mentioned, a family law attorney can certainly add a significant amount of value to the process, as they can help you to make decisions during mediation and understand all of your legal rights and responsibilities.

Contact the McLeod Law Firm To Learn More!

For more information on the above, or if you are considering a divorce in Georgia, contact the McLeod Law Firm, P.C. of Gainesville Georgia to schedule your initial case evaluation. Unlike a large law firm, our highly experienced team of family law attorneys and staff provide each and every client with the personal attention, respect and regular communication they rightfully deserve. We invite you to contact us at (770) 536-0202 to find out more about how we can make a difference for you. Don’t wait to obtain the qualified representation you need – call us to learn more.