Mediation in Divorce

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MEDIATION is a non-judicial dispute resolution process in which opposing parties come together in an attempt to resolve their differences with the help of a neutral, impartial third party. The process typically is informal and the third party is not in a position of power or authority, rather the role of the third party is simply to guide the process and encourage the parties to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.Typically, in Florida, mediation is mandated in divorce cases. The hope of the Court is that the parties will reach agreement, at least on some of the disputed issues, prior to trial, saving all involved time and money.

Family law meditators, like all mediators in Florida, must attend a training program and make application to the Florida Supreme Court to be certified. Like attorneys, mediators, then must engage in continuing education and periodic renewal of their certification to continue practicing.

Some of the advantages of mediation may be:

1   Parties retain control of the process and outcomes instead of leaving decisions about important aspects of their lives up to a third party (such as a judge).

2   Parties enjoy immediate resolution of their issues and can move forward more quickly with their lives.

3   Parties can save time and money by avoiding the costs of litigation.

4   Parties may enjoy better communication due to the informal setting of mediation, which will encourage better communication in the future (this may be particularly important if the parties are co-parenting minor children).

5   Parties most likely will be more satisfied with the results and less likely to return for future litigation

Mediation costs vary based on the income of the parties. Typically, the parties divide the costs of mediation equally and are required to pay the mediator prior to commencement of mediation. Mediation usually is scheduled for a specified period of time. Mediators vary in how they handle over-runs. Some prefer to adhere strictly to the allotted time, and reschedule for future sessions. Others will allow the parties to continue if they are making progress and all agree.

Information disclosed at mediation is to be kept confidential by all those present, except that information which is required or permitted to be disclosed by law or information which is available through other methods. The purpose of this confidentially provision is to encourage all parties to share freely with one another without fear of information later being used against them at trial. Parties are asked to sign statements at mediation agreeing not to subpoena the mediator to testify at trial regarding any information revealed during the mediation.

Even though, through family mediation programs, mediation is court-ordered, the mediation process is considered voluntary. Parties are required only to appear and participate through the end of the mediator’s opening remarks. If they choose to leave after the mediator’s opening remarks, they may do so at that time, having fulfilled their obligation to the Court.

Although family law mediators may be lawyers, in their capacity as mediators, they are prohibited from giving legal advice to either party. If you require legal advice, it is a good idea to attend your mediation with your attorney. Parties, however, may mediate without their respective attorneys if they choose.

Regardless of whether you and your spouse can resolve any, all or none of your issues in mediation, mediation provides an opportunity for open communication about the issues and discovery. It’s an important step in the dissolution process and the better prepared you are prior to mediation, the more smoothly you’ll move through the divorce process.

If we can answer any questions you may have about mediation or the divorce process, we would love to help. Please give us a call today to schedule a consultation.