(1) What does a family law mediator do?
According to Fla. Stat. section 44.1011 (2) mediation is a process whereby a neutral and impartial third person acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute without prescribing what it should be. It is an informal and non-adversarial process intended to help disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
Thus, a family law mediator helps the parties explore different settlement opportunities while maintaining impartiality and neutrality. The mediator should has no stake in the outcome, but should be a good listener, communicator and problem solver with the ability to think outside to box to help the parties achieve positive results given the circumstances and facts.
However one of the fundamental building blocks of mediation is self determination and therefore any agreement must be acceptable to all mediation parties. A family law mediator should hopefully be seen as a positive influence in a normally troubling time.
(2) How does family law mediation start (how does the process work)?
Mediation can be used to resolve any type a dispute between two or more parties.
In a typical family law divorce mediation the court already has jurisdiction and orders the parties to mediation. In court ordered mediation either the parties can choose the mediator or the court mediation department can assign a mediator.
If a petition for divorce has not been filed with the court the parties can choose to have a mediated divorce. This could include a pro se mediation where the mediator would assist the parties in filling out all necessary forms and resolving any disputes through mediation.
(3) How do divorce court documents get filed?
The documents can be e-filed with the court system. In court order mediation the documents can be filed by the mediation department. In pro se cases the documents can also be filed with the clerk of court.
(4) How long does mediation take?
Typically, when the court orders mediation it gives the parties approximately 60 days to complete the mediation. I am typically able to schedule mediations within the next week to two weeks when requested. The typical mediation session is for three hours; however, in highly contested matters a full day of mediation or longer may be required.
(5) Is mediation cheaper than using lawyers to handle a divorce?
Yes!!! My private mediation fees are $250 dollars an hour; which typically split between the two parties or $125 dollars per hour per party. Thus, a typical mediation will cost less than $500 dollars for each party. Try finding a family law attorney for that!
(6) Will our agreement be enforceable?
Yes. It’s a binding contract enforced by the court. Absent a showing of fraud the agreement would be difficult to have rescinded.
(7) Should I see a lawyer during mediation?
That is a personal preference. Mediations can be held with just the parties. Other mediations have attorney participation for one side or both.
(8) What if we can’t agree on all issues?
Mediation can always result in a partial agreement where agreed items are resolved and not agreed items are left for the court or judge to make the determination. Again the nice thing about mediation is you can control the outcome and you can mold an agreement to work for both parties.
(9) We don’t get along well – how can we possibly mediate?
Many family mediation cases take place in separate rooms with the mediator conducting shuttle diplomacy and carrying messages back-and-forth between the two rooms. If you were able to get along well, then more likely than not, you would not be in divorce mediation.
(10) How do you prepare for family mediation?
Prepare your financial affidavit.
Think about a parenting plan and custody arrangements
Think about division of assets
Be prepared to make decisions affecting your future.
Be ready to “think outside the box”
Be ready to listen, understand and be creative.