Mediation Is A Not A Formality – Why The Parties Should Take It Seriously
Money, time, control, creativity, privacy and predictability – these are all factors to consider when approaching the mediation of a Florida divorce – whether voluntarily or because of a court order. Divorcing parties may choose on their own to enter private mediation to try to resolve the legal issues in their divorce. Or, a Florida judge may require the parties to a divorce to try mediation before the judge will hold a trial.
What exactly is mediation?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method, meaning a way to resolve a legal dispute without having to go to trial. In divorce mediation, the parties work with a neutral mediator of their agreed-upon choice. The mediator will be a trained professional who in a Florida divorce must be a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator.
While there is some flexibility in format, usually the two parties will be in different rooms with the mediator moving between them. Each party may bring their own attorney to mediation for advice and consultation as necessary.
The mediator has special training in conflict resolution and personal communication to assist the parties in negotiating an agreement on their divorce issues. In particular, the mediator uses techniques for helping parties navigate their way through impasses.
In a Florida divorce matter, the mediator would probably be an attorney or a financial expert, if there are complex accounting, tax or valuation issues that will come up in the property division, child support or alimony decision making.
The mediator will not make decisions or issue a judgment – they will instead help the parties to the divorce come to agreement, if possible. It may be that they can agree on some, but not all, issues, in which case they may sign an agreement on those settled issues and go to trial on the unresolved matters.
If the parties reach an impasse in mediation, they will proceed to trial before the judge in their divorce case.
Parties in mediation should give it sincere effort
Mediation is an opportunity to resolve issues by agreement, rather than having a judge decide the most personal and important matters in life – and they do not even know you. Advantages of mediation often are:
• Mediation tends to be less costly than litigation.
• Mediation is likely going to finish faster than a trial and the parties have more input into scheduling.
• A mediated settlement agreement is the result of compromise between the two parties so each is likely to have gotten some of what they wanted and each is likely to have given up certain things, which is not guaranteed in a judge-issued decision that could be one-sided or something neither party would have wanted.
• The parties can reach creative solutions that a judge may not be able to or that would be unlikely in court.
• Mediation is largely confidential, but a court trial may publicly reveal personal family matters.
An experienced family lawyer can answer questions about mediation and other options for resolving legal issues in divorce.