Florida Family Law Mediator

Reasons to Mediate: Its Private!

There are many reasons to mediate your family law case. One important reason is that mediation is private. This is critical if your case involves sensitive issues or high profile individuals. Most family law cases that are litigated before a judge (including divorces and custody actions) are held in courtrooms that are open to the public. This means that anyone over the age of 18 can come in the courtroom and watch your case. Although it is rare for disinterested people or strangers come to family law court proceedings, court staff, other attorneys, witnesses and other people waiting for their hearings are likely to be present during your case. "Airing your dirty laundry" in public is embarrassing and may expose you to potential harm.

The Myths of Mediation: Every Issue Must be Resolved

Many people believe that an agreement must be reached on all of the issues raised by their case. That belief is misguided. At mediation, the parties have considerable flexibility when fashioning a settlement. Of course, the parties can come to an agreement on all of the issues raised by their case. But the parties can also enter into a partial settlement agreement that resolves only the issues for which the parties are in agreement, while leaving the disputed issues for the Court to decide. For instance, in a divorce, it is not uncommon for the parties to settle all of the child related issues (i.e., timesharing, child support, etc.), while leaving the division of marital properties and payment of alimony up to the Judge to decide.

Mediation Saves Time

Most mediators can schedule mediations quickly within being called. During most of the year, parties can schedule a mediation with my office within a couple of fews of calling. In unusual cases a mediation conference will last more than one day, but most will be completed within one day. If an agreement is reached at mediation, most cases can be finalized within a few weeks.

If parties elect to litigate their case, it may takes months or even years for their case to be completed. On average, litigated cases take at least six months to complete. Because of backlogs in the Court, it is very difficult to obtain trial time.

The Myths of Mediation: The Mediator Decides What is Fair

Many people mistakenly think of mediation as an opportunity to plead their case to the mediator, and that the mediator will decide which party is "right" or how the case should be resolved. Mediation is not arbitration or litigation. The Mediator does not have the power to impose a "ruling or a decision. The Mediator's role is to facilitate a settlement by helping the parties discuss issues and explore possible resolutions. The parties ultimately decide how to resolve their case, not the mediator.

The Myths of Mediation: Mediation is Optional

I often hear people say, "Mediation is optional. I don't have to mediate." However, in most family cases, the Court automatically orders the parties to attend a mediation conference in an effort to compel the parties to discuss settlement possibilities. The time when the parties are ordered to mediation varies from Court to Court. The vast majority of Judges will require the parties to attend at least one mediation conference prior to scheduling a final hearing or trial. While some Judges require the parties to attend mediation prior to setting any hearings, even hearings for temporary child support.

It is true that when a Court orders mediation, it only directs the parties to make an appearance at the mediation conference. The order for mediation does not require the parties to reach a settlement or even to negotiate with each other. Thus, after appearing at the conference, either party can terminate the mediation. So, in that sense mediation is optional, but terminating a mediation upon arrival or quickly thereafter rarely is a logical choice. For instance, most mediators charge a minimum fee that covers several hours of his/her time. If the parties are going to pay for the mediator's time anyway, doesn't it make sense to "stick it out" and try to discuss the issues and maybe reach a settlement? Also since most cases will settle at mediation, it makes sense to give the process a chance to work!