On March 28, 1994, the Cobb County Magistrate Court became the first court in Georgia to implement a volunteer mediation program for small claims cases. Since that time, the program has expanded to allow for the mediation of dispossessory cases and warrant applications. Participating mediators are state registered by the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution under the Georgia Supreme Court.
Mediation is a process by which a Neutral facilitates settlement discussions between parties. The Neutral has no authority to make a decision or impose a settlement upon the parties. The Neutral attempts to focus the attention of the parties upon their needs and interests rather than upon rights and positions. In the absence of a settlement, the parties are still eligible to appear before a judge to plead their case.
Benefits of Mediation
Mediation allows you to control your own dispute and resolve the problem yourself, rather than having a judge decides it for you. Mediation is also fast and cost effective. There is no additional cost to participate in the mediation program. In a mediation session, everyone has the opportunity to voice their concerns and the privilege of speaking without interruption. Mediation encourages the parties to develop alternative ways of solving the issues at hand.
The Mediator's Role
The mediator helps parties involved in a dispute talk to each other and reach an agreement that is satisfactory to both parties. The mediator manages your mediation session and facilitates the parties in reaching the solution: however, the parties retain the ultimate decision-making power. The mediator has a duty to the parties to remain neutral, unbiased, and to act in good faith. The Magistrate Court Mediation Program enlists the help of trained, state registered, volunteer mediators.
Confidentiality of Mediation
Information gathered in the mediation process is confidential and privileged. Any information pertaining to the actual content of the case will not be discussed with anyone outside of the mediation session. However, procedural issues may need clarification from the Mediation Office. The parties will not disclose any information about the content of the mediation without the approval of the mediator and the other party or parties.
Court personnel or other observers will be held to the same level of confidentiality as is required of the mediator and the parties themselves. Mediation coordinators may be present strictly for the purpose of upholding the high standards of the mediation program and will in no way be reporting the contents of the mediation to any judicial officer.
If the parties agree to have their case mediated, the program coordinator would schedule the mediation session. Mediation sessions are scheduled Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. For more information regarding the mediation process or to schedule mediation, please contact the Mediation Office at (770) 528-7977.
Important Things to Remember
- If you are involved in a small claims suit and your address changes, you should notify the clerk in writing of your new address. (The court notifies you of your court date by regular mail.)
- The Magistrate Court was designed for you to represent yourself. However, you may have an attorney represent you.
- Once a court date has been set by the clerk, continuances are granted by consent of both parties only or for legal causes only.
- It is very important that the correct party is sued. lf there are any doubts as to who you should sue, you should consult an attorney.
- The clerk cannot give advice on whom to sue. The clerk can help with filling out the necessary forms.
- The court cannot force the losing party to pay. Keep in mind; you may not be able to collect on the judgment.
- Finally, it is important to remember that you have been given basic information for suing in the Magistrate Court. Some cases require more detailed instructions and preparation than what you may have read. If you have any questions that do not require legal advice, the clerk will be happy to assist you. The clerk can be reached at (770) 528-8910, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.