Mary Ellen Cates, Attorney & State Mediator

25 years trial experience practicing in domestic law
with a common sense approach, also offering pre-divorce mediation

E-mail: [email protected] - inquiries welcome and responded to. Contact is the first step.

Contacts: Office: (404) 292-3803; Cell (404) 317-0015; Fax (404) 292-1510

Location: Physical Address: 120 North Avondale Road, A-2, Avondale Estates , Georgia 30002 (near Memorial Drive and I-285; College Avenue, (Agnes Scott College) East of Decatur). Mailing Address: P.O. Box 309, Avondale Estates, Georgia 30002

Free Initial Consultation: if it's the type of case that I handle and in the jurisdictions that I practice in. It's to your advantage to have a local attorney who knows how judges usually rule. There is an hourly charge to review documents if you are seeking a legal opinion.

Individual Legal Services Offered: Pre-Divorce Mediation; Uncontested divorce, Contested divorce, Child Support, Legitimation, Visitation, Custody, Change of Custody, Mediation & Case Evaluations.

Services for Pro Se Clients (who represent themselves): Pre-Divorce Mediation; Uncontested divorce, Contested divorce, Child Support, Legitimation, Visitation, Custody, Change of Custody, Mediation & Case Evaluations.

Pre-Divorce Mediation: If you don't want to hire attorneys and prefer to hand the divorce yourselves, you can utilize pre-divorce mediation. It is usual to give both parties a specified period of time to consult with an attorney of their choice to review any agreement before they give their final acceptance to the mediated agreement. Many parties prefer the informal setting of pre-divorce mediation. By utilizing pre-divorce mediation, there is no pressure of court, which many people desire. The pre-divorce mediation occurs prior to suit being filed.

Representation of Parties: As an attorney, I have represented husbands and wife's in equal numbers. I have obtained custody for fathers as well as for mothers.

Mediation Services Offered: Mediation services offered: I am licensed by the State of Georgia as a mediator, and offer services as a Family Law mediator and Pre-Divorce Mediation. Please see the Chapter entitled Mediation, An Alternative. I have included the guidelines I use in my mediations to give you a better understanding of mediation. I am available for mediation on an hourly basis. The parties usually split the cost of mediation.

Be Neutral: I brief a current domestic appeals case from the Georgia Supreme Court each month which is published in Be Neutral, the monthly newsletter for the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution.

Case Evaluator: If you have an attorney, you don't need a case evaluator. If you don't have an attorney and you are headed to Court, I offer services as a case evaluator to point out the weaknesses of your case and help you develop a logical presentation for the Court. You should know in the majority of cases, the party who has an attorney usually wins. See the Chapter I Want to Represent Myself This will give you some understanding of many serious obstacles you will be facing. A case evaluation is not a substitute for having an attorney, but it will help strengthen your presentation by looking at the evidence you need to level the field. As you will learn from reading the chapter, you may have too much to lose not to hire an attorney. You may be a very intelligent professional, but it's legal knowledge that is needed now. The question is how bad will your lack of it hurt you? I would recommend an attorney at least for trial. Case evaluations are provided on an hourly basis.

* See referenced Chapters on Georgia Resources Page which include observations from trials I have actively presented as an attorney since 1985 on:

It's Time to Hire an Attorney
Assisting Your Attorney
Your Spouse's Attorney
Divorce: A Common Sense Approach
The Decision to Divorce
I Want to Represent Myself
Contested or Uncontested?
The Contested Divorce
Witnesses
Your Testimony
What to Expect on Cross Examination
The Judge
The Ruling
Mediation: An Alternative

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q: What is pre-divorce mediation?
A: No one wants to go to court. Period. No one wants has thousands of dollars to give an attorney as a retainer (each of you means retainer times two). Why wait until the divorce is filed and money is spent before you go to mediation? I charge an hourly rate which is split between the parties. We discuss ways to resolve the disputes and then draft the agreement. It may take several sessions, depending on the complexity of the problems and assets and debts involved and documents needed. Once complete, each party can take the agreement to an attorney for review. It may then be filed as an uncontested divorce.

Q: When would pre-divorce mediation not work?
A: If parties are hiding assets or there is a sizeable marital estate and one party is ignorant of the facts. Remember, not everyone tells the truth in a divorce, especially when they think it will cost them money. If you know your spouse will not be honest, you probably need the power of the court to compel them to produce documents.

Q: But, if my spouse and I can agree in pre-divorce mediation and both of us are satisfied there has been full disclosure of assets and debts, it will save us time and money in hiring attorneys?
A: YYes. You don't have to hire two attorneys to go to court and argue your cases to the Judge, or negotiate back and forth. It will save time which in attorney talk equates to money.

Q: If we both want to have a pre-divorce mediation, but reserve our right to have an attorney review it, can we do that?
A: Yes. You can actually state that in the agreement as part of the understanding of the parties. This is not unusual. Parties without attorneys usually want the opportunity to have an attorney of their choice review any agreement prior to making it final.

Q: If we resolve everything in a pre-divorce mediation, do we need an attorney to complete the process?
A: Some counties have extensive pre-printed documents and information for parties who represent themselves. You may be able to finalize the final without hiring an attorney. Other times, you may need to hire an attorney to push the paperwork through for you. A mediator cannot function as a mediator and an attorney.

Q: What is the best advice you can give to divorcing couples who are fighting over their children?
A: Expect to spend a lot of money. Most judges require the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the children. This is an expense which both of you will usually share. Contested custody cases are costly and very time consuming. You should think first as parents, not as a husband or wife. Even if you don't think it will do any good, attend mediation.

Q: If I am going to represent myself, can you review my documents and give me your advice on what I am doing and/or should do?
A: Yes. We can work out an hourly rate. You do need to realize however, a lot of what happens in court is the way the information is presented. Just having your documents and facts correct, does not always mean you are going to be able to present it properly, or that you can successfully withstand an attack from an opposing experienced attorney.

Q: What advice would you give someone going to Court without an attorney?
A: Don't do it. Never underestimate the life changing ability a judge has. Never underestimate the power of your spouse's attorney. First and last question to ask yourself, what do you stand to lose- because you probably will.

Q: Do you give an initial free consultation?
A: Yes, if it's the type of case that I handle in the jurisdictions that I practice in. Usually, we can talk on the telephone if that is more convenient for you. If you need to come into the office, that also can be arranged. I do not charge for an initial consultation, however, if you wish me to review documents and give my opinion, I would quote you a price for that.

Q: What substantive issues do you think are important for parties to recognize early on in their divorce?
A: The financial realities during and after a divorce. If you think financially, this is one of the most powerful positions you can take. When it's over, it's over. The difference is what did you end up with? You can't do it over.

Q: What do you want potential clients to know about you?
A: Prior to any engagement of representation as an attorney, I want to meet in person so we can determine how well we can work together. I do not take all cases. I give personal attention to my clients. I return phone calls within a reasonable period of time and subject to the restraints of opposing counsel and courts, I try and get your case over with as quickly as I can. The longer it drags on, the worse the conditions usually become. When my representation is concluded, I would like for you to recommend me to your friends as someone who did a good job.

Q: What do you think is the hardest part for most people who are contemplating a divorce?
A: Picking up the phone and making an appointment with a divorce attorney. It seems to signal the beginning of the end. This is always sad, even if it is necessary. That's one of the reasons I don't charge for an initial consultation if it's the type of case I handle in the counties I usually practice in. It is easier to go and talk to an attorney for only a consultation, rather than starting the process. It isn't always an ending, sometimes it's a beginning.



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