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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Role of Mediation in Florida Divorces

You are flipping through the channels on TV and you stop at the sight of one of those heated divorcing couples yelling at each other, seconds away from ripping each other’s hair out.  You wonder to yourself, “Is it possible to resolve some of these issues outside of court without all the drama?”  That is where mediation comes into play.  Florida has “one of the most comprehensive court-connected mediation programs in the country.”  As Certified Family Law Mediators, our attorneys are committed to helping parties reach an amicable and comprehensive resolution in their cases.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process where a neutral third person (the mediator) aids parties in reaching a mutual resolution of issues in their case.  A mediator is not there to determine what party is “right” or “wrong.”  Rather, a mediator helps parties reach solutions that meet the needs and interests of the parties involved in the dispute.  It is important to note that although the Court may order you to attend mediation it is voluntary, it is voluntary and confidential process so you can choose to stop the mediation if you do not feel it is productive, and you can be assured that what is said in mediation stays in mediation.  For family law cases, parties may mediate issues ranging from property division to alimony and child support or custody in hopes of avoiding costly litigation expenses.

When Should Mediation Take Place?

Mediation can occur before, during, or after any litigation.  However, mediation is typically most productive when both parties have already been given the chance to learn and investigate the other party’s stance on the issues, but it is still early enough in the dispute that the parties have not spent substantial money on expensive litigation and court appearances.

How Does Mediation Work?

Parties either can agree to a mediator or the judge will appoint one.  A mediator will invite both parties to make “opening statements” regarding their positions on the contested issues in their case.  Moving forward, the mediator will help the parties explore different possibilities for resolution and the strengths and weaknesses of each of these possibilities.  A successful mediation will help close the gap between the parties’ opening positions and help the parties’ potentially reduce any agreement they reach into writing.

How Much Does Mediation Cost Compared to Trial?

A mediator typically charges an hourly rate with an overall minimum retention fee.  The length of the mediation process depends on several factors, including complexity of the contested issues, how large the gap between the parties positions is, and how flexible each of the parties is. Overall, mediation is less expensive and less time-consuming than proceeding to a full trial on all issues through the court.

If We Hire a Mediator, Do I Still Need an Attorney?

Unlike an attorney, a mediator cannot give either party legal advice or advise them of their legal rights.  To help ensure your mediation is successful, you will want to consult with an attorney regarding your legal rights on contested issues prior to going to mediation.  If you are represented by an attorney your attorney will attend mediation with you. If both you and your spouse understand your respective legal rights, the mediation process is more likely to succeed.

Resolve Your Divorce Case With A Certified Family Law Mediator

Cotter & Zelman, P.A.’s Certified Family Law Mediators have years of combined experience to help parties come to a mutually satisfactory resolution.  We are both Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediators and can help clients mediate a wide range of contested issues in a divorce proceeding.  We understand the role mediation can have in minimizing costs and emotional effects of an otherwise adversarial process.  If you are looking for a neutral and impartial Certified Family Law Mediator to help you arrive at a fair resolution, contact us today.

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