Florida Family Law 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!