Florida courts require almost everybody seeking a divorce to attend mediation before trial. In mediation, both parties attempt to come to a mutual agreement as to the issues in their divorce by using a neutral third party mediator to help them come to a resolution. Settling a case in mediation is often times more cost-effective because they result in less attorney's fees than traditional litigation. Another benefit to settling in mediation is that it affords you and your spouse complete control over the outcome of the divorce. Whether concerning parental responsibility, time-sharing, child support, or equitable distribution, people are generally more satisfied with the results if they are given the opportunity to make choices about what is right for their family.
If you and your spouse settle at mediation, the mediator prepares a Mediated Settlement Agreement, and you and your spouse sign the agreement. Once the agreement is signed, it is presented to the assigned judge, who issues a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. A Final Judgment is an Order that incorporates the Mediated Settlement Agreement signed by the parties.
It is important to remember that mediators are not judges. While courts require mediation, any agreement is totally voluntary. Unlike a judge, a mediator cannot require you or your spouse to agree to or do anything. During mediation, you and your spouse have all of the power to make decisions about your divorce.
The Florida Rules of Family Law Procedure require you and your spouse to go to mediation before the Court will rule on issues in your case. Judges can allow people to skip mediation, but this is rarely done in the absence of special circumstances. For example, the courts may consider a couple's history of domestic violence to constitute a special circumstance causing the court to waive mediation.
For a Mediated Settlement Agreement to be successful, both you and your spouse must agree. Sometimes you and your spouse will be able to agree on some issues and not others, leading to the creation of a Partial Mediated Settlement Agreement. If you or your spouse attend mediation with an open mind and the intention to settle, mediation can be a very productive experience. However, if you or your spouse are angry or unwilling to compromise, mediation can be a waste of time and money. Retaining an experienced family law attorney, like Carmen G. Soto, Esq. can give you the peace of mind to know that your attorney is prepared to create an atmosphere that is conducive to a positive and efficient settlement.
Being prepared for mediation is key to success. Before mediation, you will meet with your attorney to go over what to expect in mediation and to discuss what needs and goals you hope for mediation to accomplish. Your attorney will assess the strengths and weaknesses of your position, all of the unresolved issues, and develop a strategy to help achieve what you are seeking It is also important that you consider your spouse's needs and goals as well so that it is possible to come to a compromise both parties find acceptable.