For many people, when you and your spouse are getting divorce, the last thing that seems possible is that you will come to agreements about how life will work once you are divorced. Florida courts, however, routinely order that couples attend a Florida Family Law Mediation to work out their differences. Many times, our clients will ask, “why do I have to go to mediation?”
The short answer to that question is simple, “because it works.” Another answer would be because it is ordered by the Judge. Research has indicated that when spouses can have some input and control over the outcome of the divorce that both sides tend to work better at holding to that agreement and being more satisfied than if the judge decides. Mediation in Florida divorces is an opportunity for each spouse to communicate through a third party over how each spouse’s finances, parenting responsibilities, timesharing with the children, and assets can be split based on the priorities of the family. Mediation occurs in a casual office like setting, so the environment is more comfortable for reaching agreements as opposed to the formality of the agreements. Additionally, you and your spouse usually sit in separate rooms with your respective attorney, and the mediator, who is typically a lawyer or counselor trained in family law, talks to both sides individually to help create an agreement for the future of this family. Also, at mediation, everything that you say is confidential, and negotiations can not be used against in court later, so this gives each side freedom to make offers to find a resolution and not worry that their words will come back to haunt them in front of the judge.
In addition, when it comes to timesharing with your shared children, you can craft a parenting plan that is not only going to work for the particular needs of both parents, but it is focused on the needs of the children. For example, maybe your soon-to-be former spouse has an work schedule where the work overnight shifts, mediating a parenting plan can help to take those considerations into account when you and spouse come to an agreement about how to maximize time with the kids and parents, considering the work hours of both parents.
But that is just one example, and the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to how the parties can use mediation to make their divorce agreement personalized to the needs of the family. Spouses can make agreements about anything, ranging from who gets what furniture to who gets to stay in the house, and how it will be split up later.
One of the ways that you can best prepare to best use your time with the mediator is to have a list of your biggest priorities for moving forward, so that you can not only make sure that you maintain what you feel is important, but also so you can recognize issues that you are willing to compromise. The next is to have an experienced family attorney both on your side, and at your side, when you are deciding how the future will look for you and your children. In our many years of family law experience at Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A., the family law attorneys have seen how mediation can be an amazing tool for any couple getting divorced by working together to settle these issues, and move forward in their new roles as co-parents and former spouses with a more defined plan for a bright future.