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.
Each party pays $115 to the ADR Office at least 10 days prior to any scheduled mediation. We accept payment in the form of certified check, money order, or credit card. Visit the ADR website to make credit card payments. A fee waiver may be granted for unrepresented parties based on need.
The time required for mediation depends on the nature and complexity of the dispute and the number of parties involved. Mediation typically lasts 1-3 hours and often times even longer. The parties may choose to mediate beyond 3 hours, but will be responsible for paying the mediator directly for any time beyond 3 hours. The mediator will disclose his or her private rate before the mediation begins.
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.
Although most cases can benefit from mediation, some cases might be better handled through the formal litigation process. These include lawsuits in which:
- A party wants to establish a new legal interpretation
- There is a constitutional question or a new test of the law
- A court can dispose of the case easily
- A party wants vindication
- A party wants the protections of formal litigation
- A party prefers that a judge preside over all processes
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:
- There is a lack of knowledge or resources to gain information by one party creating a significant imbalance of power.
- A party's physical or mental condition prohibits that party from protecting his or her own interests or in carefully considering his or her options.
- There is ongoing domestic abuse or previous interactions between the parties resulting in one party controlling or abusing the other party to such an extent that the less dominant party cannot exercise independent judgment.
If you have a case and you think that it may not be appropriate for mediation, you are encouraged to speak with a staff member in the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution. You may reach someone at 404-612-4549.
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:
- Mediators and program staff reporting whether or not the parties appear for mediation;
- Threats of pending violence to self or to others; or
- If the mediator believes that a child is abused or that the safety of any party or third party is in danger.