Judges in Florida family law cases are big proponents of family law mediation. It is estimated that 90% of family law cases are actually settled at mediation. If that is accurate it means that a majority of family law cases are taken off of the court’s docket before they go to a final hearing. This has the effect of freeing up the judges’ dockets for other cases that cannot be resolved through mediation. It’s no mystery then that judges in Florida family law cases promote mediation for family law clients. Most judges in Duval, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns counties require mediation before you can even attend a final hearing.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that uses negotiating through a disinterested third party to forge a resolution among the parties. Generally the mediator is a lawyer themselves and has practiced family law in the past or may still practice family law. This is helpful because they have a good understanding of what the laws are and how judges in your jurisdiction interpret those laws. A good mediator can help you understand what a judge might do in your particular situation if you go to trial.
At mediation the parties are usually in the same room for the mediator’s introduction and then split into different conference rooms with their respective attorneys for the negotiation process. The mediator has a discussion with each party and their attorney and goes back and forth between the parties with settlement offers on the issues involved. If the parties reach an agreement the mediator types up a settlement agreement and consent final judgment for the judge to sign and the case is concluded with a non-adversarial final hearing with the judge. The terms of the mediated agreement become effective as soon as it is signed.
A settlement reached at mediation is often preferred to one at trial because the parties are able to set their own terms. This is not to say that you get everything you want at mediation but you know exactly what you are getting and can make a conscious decision to either reach an agreement or an impasse. If there is no agreement then the case simply goes to trial and the judge decides your fate.
Mediation is more relaxed than trial and can usually save you money over going to trial. That doesn’t mean mediation is cheap but since the courts usually require it before a trial, you should try to get the most out of it. If you have questions about Florida Family Law then give us a call.