Family Law Mediation
WHAT IS FAMILY MEDIATION?
Family law mediation is a procedure designed to assist people who are separating, divorcing, or dealing with matters arising after divorce, to reach an agreement between themselves—privately, confidentially and informally. Mediation is for people who want to settle family disputes without going to court and without destroying whatever is left of their fragile relationships. It employs the skills of a neutral and impartial third party, called a mediator, who assists the individuals in making their own decisions by providing necessary information, clarifying issues, helping explore alternative solutions, and suggesting possible compromises. A mediator is licensed by the State of Florida under the authority of the Florida Supreme Court. Issues mediated may include; child custody, visitation and child support; alimony or spousal support; division of assets and liabilities (equitable distribution), health insurance; life insurance; and the tax impacts of various alternative decisions.
GOALS OF MEDIATION
To help the parties reach their own acceptable agreement by fully exploring all choices. To avoid the need for a court-imposed decision (a trial).To assist the parties in understanding the terms and future impact of their agreement. To prepare the parties to anticipate, work through, and resolve disagreements that might arise. To reduce anxiety and the negative effects of going to court.
ADVANTAGES OF MEDIATION
Provides an opportunity for cooperation between the parties, and allows the parties to resolve their own issues rather than relying on a judge to make the decisions for them. Provides the parties with the tools to structure an agreement in their own best interests. Minimizes the potentially traumatic emotional and psychological effects, and financial costs of a court trial. Helps with the exchange of information, ideas, and alternatives for settlement between the parties.
HOW MEDIATION WORKS
The mediation process begins either with a court order or an agreement of the parties. The court may not refer parties to mediation if there is a significant history of spouse abuse or domestic violence. If this is the case, you should inform your attorney or the mediator immediately. The mediator, as a neutral and objective participant, plays an active role in the mediation process by assisting individuals affected by the outcome and their attorneys in reaching a settlement. Parties may mediate in the same room or be separated into different rooms with the mediator going back and forth between the rooms with settlement proposals. The mediator s purpose is to help identify issues, develop bargaining proposals, and conduct negotiations with the goal of coming to a settlement that meets the family s needs. The mediator clarifies and organizes details, prompts discussion and cooperative communication, and manages conflict. The mediator DOES NOT have authority to make any decisions or issue any orders, but helps with the parties own decision-making processes. After agreement has been reached, the mediator will draft a written mediation agreement to be reviewed and signed by the parties and their attorneys. If no agreement is reached, it is called an impasse, and the parties leave with no agreement, which is an acceptable outcome.
THE ROLE OF FAMILY LAW LAWYER
Mediation is not supposed to replace an attorney experienced in the area of marriage dissolution law for each party. Each party Is urged to seek independent legal counsel because, although some mediators are attorneys, the mediator is not authorized to give legal advice. The mediator's role is neutral and not a substitute for independent legal advice. The mediator does not represent either party, but focuses on helping the parties reach their own agreement. While the decisions reached in mediation are made by the parties, it is important that they be informed decisions. Attorneys may attend mediation sessions, and most parties come to the mediation with their attorney. The parties at all time s are permitted to communicate with their lawyers. If both parties are aware of their respective legal rights and have been fully informed by their own attorneys, the mediation process can be much more beneficial. Upon completion of the mediation, the mediator will submit any agreement that has been reached to the Court. Often all that remains to complete the case is a brief uncontested final hearing at which time the Judge approves and incorporates that mediation agreement into a final judgment.
COST OF MEDIATION
The mediator s fee is usually quoted on an hourly basis, ranging from $150.00 per hour to $300.00 per hour. Both parties are encouraged to share in the expenses. When mediation is court-ordered, the fee and person responsible for payment are set by the court. Family mediation may be available through the court at reduced cost based upon the parties income levels. Mediation frequently is less expensive, both financially and emotionally, than traditional litigation.