What is Family Law Mediation in Florida? How Does It Work?

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In most Florida family law matters, especially those concerning the long term care of shared children, judges prefer to have individuals reach their own agreements about how the divorce is going to structured, including how to share time with their children, divide their property, and decision making about raising their children.   Clients routinely ask, “do we have to go to mediation? If we don’t get along, how on earth will we agree on anything?”   Simply put, mediation is magic in many but certainly not all cases.

Over the years and hundreds of cases, we have seen even the most difficult cases and parties find resolution with their spouse or former spouse through the process of mediation.  Mediation is where the spouses meet with a neutral third party, who acts as a go-between in order to find solutions to the parties’ disputes over their dissolution of marriage, modification, or other issues that may be worked out.  Typically, parties remain separated in two rooms, and may never see one another, or may briefly at the onset of mediation for the mediator to explain the process and the rules.

While getting to an agreement may seem like an insurmountable task, using a trained mediator and having an experienced family law attorney at your side makes mediation an excellent opportunity to have control and input in deciding the most important components of your family law case.  Not only that, mediation discussions are prohibited from coming into court for the judge to consider if your case goes to trial, therefore, people feel more willing to discuss their concerns and also to be open to creative solutions that may not be available should a judge decide your case.

In order for mediation to be most beneficial, both parties are required to exchange financial information so that they are coming to the mediation table with knowledge of what the other party has and is willing to negotiate.  Being represented by an experienced family law attorney in your mediation will help you to make sound decisions about your future and your family moving forward.

In almost every case, the judge will order the parties to mediation to try to resolve the issues before heading to trial.   Therefore, in that case, the parties do have to go to mediation, meaning they need to appear with a willingness to try to work things out.  The judge cannot order you to agree, so once you have made the effort to attend mediation and try to solve some issues, the court should be satisfied that your attempt to mediate has been successfully completed, even if your case does not settle.  This is in hopes that, especially in family law matters, the spouses can come to agreements for their future and in the best interest of their children, but also to help resolve some or all issues to save the parties money from going to trial.  If issues cannot be agreed to, then the issues or matter will be set for hearing, and the parties will proceed to have their case heard by the judge.  When the judge makes the decision about how the parties divorce will be determined, the parties will lose their ability to have substantial input in how the issues will play out in the long term.  Using the tool of mediation to negotiate your best future in your family law case is an excellent opportunity that will hopefully work to create an agreement that you and your ex will both follow and find positive for your family moving forward.