Many Georgia couples are not aware of their options when they decide to end their marriage. Mediation is one method that may help divorcing spouses avoid courtroom litigation. It is a confidential dispute resolution process in which a neutral and trained third party attempts to facilitate communication between the spouses with the goal of reaching an agreement.

The first step in the mediation process will usually be a consultation. Both spouses will meet with the mediator individually. This is a chance for each spouse to discuss the mediator’s qualifications and ask questions about the process to make sure that both spouses feel comfortable with their choice of mediator.

Next, the mediator will have meetings with the spouses separately and jointly to discuss critical issues related to the divorce. The spouses will need to be ready to discuss property division, alimony and child custody and visitation, if applicable. Communication is key to a successful mediation, so couples should come ready to discuss any hopes, goals or fears they have related to these issues.

After the mediator has assisted a couple in coming to agreement on all the important issues in a divorce, the mediator will usually create a detailed outline of all the terms. Each spouse will have a chance to review it to make sure it accurately reflects their agreement. The resulting agreement can then be submitted to a court for its approval. After it is entered by the court, the agreement is legally binding in the same way that a court order is binding after contested litigation.

Divorce mediation is a completely voluntary process. A mediator’s outline is not binding unless the couple agrees on the terms. Couples who cannot agree may wish to consult their respective family law attorneys and pursue traditional litigation.