Every divorce, paternity and modification proceeding, except for those that are truly uncontested and settle, are required to go through mediation prior to a final hearing. Mediation is a process for parties, along with the help of a mediator, to try and resolve disputes to reach an agreement on contested issues. A mediator goes back and forth between the parties in what is called a ‘caucus’ in an effort to get the parties to a satisfactory settlement.
During mediation, the mediator and the parties work to settle issues including, but not limited to:
Division of Assets & Debts (i.e. Equitable Distribution) – The division of the assets acquired and debts incurred during the marriage (i.e. who will get what and who will pay for what?).
Alimony – Will either party make support payments to the other party? There are multiple forms of alimony to include temporary alimony, durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony and permanent alimony.
Shared Parenting Plan – If children were born or adopted during the marriage, what timesharing schedule should the parties exercise?
Child Support – If there are children, then who will pay child support and at what amount? Can the parties agree on an amount or will it be under the guidelines of the Florida Statutes? Who will claim the federal tax exemption for the child(ren)?
The parties may agree on one or all items at issue. Agreed upon issues are reduced to writing in a “settlement agreement” and are considered resolved. If the parties do not resolve all issues, whatever remains unresolved is placed in front of the court for determination.
Mediation allows for open lines of communication and allows parties to speak freely in hopes of coming to a resolution. Each party is in a separate room and the mediator goes back and forth between the parties to help facilitate a resolution. Everything said during mediation is confidential (except as provided by law, i.e., mandatory reporting of abuse); it cannot be repeated outside of mediation and definitely not used as an argument in Court. This confidentiality allows the parties to speak freely without the worry that statements may be used against them at a later time. Because mediation is a settlement conference, it is common for parties to ‘give and take’ a little in order to come to a settlement. Parties would not speak freely and ‘give and take’ on issues if they believed their position would be used against them in Court.
Mediation is a great resource for the parties. If the parties are successful at mediation, it saves everyone the costs and stress of a potential trial. The parties have a “say” in the final outcome as they are the ones who actively participated in the decision-making process. If they cannot agree, the parties put the issues and the resolutions in the hand of the court.
This article is for general information only and is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice or solicitation of a prospective client. It should not be relied on for legal advice in any particular factual circumstance.