Going through the divorce can be a stressful process and the involvement of a divorce attorney could potentially make the process even more acrimonious and substantially drive up the costs. The only other option available if the couple wants to avoid court appearances and hearings going through a bitter and costly legal process is to opt for a Florida divorce mediation.
Divorce mediation in Florida uses a skilled mediator, who may not necessarily be a trained lawyer, but usually is, to help the divorcing couple discuss and arrive at a settlement that is acceptable to both the parties. The cost of going to mediation is considerably less than a divorce trial. The process resolves the issues faster. I typically try to get alo cases to mediation within 2-3 months of filing if I receive the documents I need from the other side and through subpoena. In a contested case, with children, a trial may not be set for about a year after filing. In a mediation, the couples involved have the power and control over all the matters and not depend on a judge to decide their lives.
It is important to have an attorney with you at mediation in contested cases. Mediation is effective; however, parties are expected to discuss, agree and sign a mediation agreement at the end. You need a lawyer there with you to help guide you and provide legal advice.
Choosing the Right Mediator
Divorce involves many complicated issues, such as distribution of assets, child custody and timesharing, calculation of child support, alimony and distribution and sharing of retirement benefits. Mediators should be able to understand the issues and help the couple devise an amicable settlement. They should have knowledge of the Florida divorce law and be skilled at conflict resolution. Mediators must have the ability to facilitate a meaningful discussion with the parties involved. The voluntary settlement process with the involvement of a skilled mediator creates an atmosphere of mutual respect. The custom-made divorce agreement made through the process can ease the transition into the future post-divorce. Reconciliation and compliance with the decision made by the mediator would make the difficult process bearable.
The many advantages of the Mediation process
Facilitates an atmosphere of cooperation
In mediation, the parties discuss, either together or in separate rooms, all the issues involved their dissolution of marriage. The spouses can separate on good terms and not have any resentment towards the other. A great mediator starts by addressing the issues the couple agrees upon to create a platform for honest discussion. Like any good arbitrator, the mediator knows that the parties have to make concessions before reaching ach a workable deal. Trials are very controntational. There are openings, cross examiantions and presentation of evidence. Mediations are not the same. After mediations, clients are often surpised at how well the process went. I cannot stress enough that a much better resolution of a case follows a mediation where the parties decide, not a judge that neither party knows.
Typically, mediations last between 2-4 hoours with a skilled private mediator. Trial time alone for many contested cases may last between 2-3 days. The time a lawyer must prepare for a trial is considerable, incuding depositions, case management conferences, attorney meetings, client meetings, subpoenas, etc.
Better communication channel
Using a mediator certainly improves the ability of the spouses to communicate better both during the case and afterwards. Oftentimes, the channels for respectable communication are cut off when the divorce process enters into intense litigation. Most couples have to still deal with minor children, schooling, etc. Effective communication during the divorce proceedings can be of immense help for future interactions.
Gives control to the main stakeholders
The best part of the meditation process is that the control of the entire process lies with the divorcing couple. In case of litigation, the message and control of the divorce process are usually directed by the attorneys. A meditator does not make decisions for parties, but rather encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and work out an agreement. People believe that judges will know everything about the case before trial. That is simply not true. Judges learn about issues at a case management conference usually weeks before a trial, however, remember, judges attend countless case management conferences. Judges learn about the issues and the parties usually on the day of trial. I cannot stress enogh that putting your lives, your children’s lives, into the hands of a strager is not ideal. Mediation is where spouses decide these sensitive issues.
Ensures better decision making
In cases where young children are involved, couples going through a divorce would be best served using a neutral mediator. Children are more shielded from the sometimes bitter process of a divorce when the issues are intensely litigated. Divorce mediation facilitates better solutions.
Timesharing and other matters
The most stressful part of the divorce process is the issues of minor children. My goal as an Florida divorce lawyer is to cause as little interruption in children’s lives as possible for the shoretest time possible. Children are smart, they know what is going on. The sooner the divorce process is over, the better. As I stated earlier, mediations may resolve divorce cases fairly quickly and amicably. On the other hand, it may take a year or more to get to a trial on a contested case. Oftentimes, in my experience, fathers and mothers get along much better after the divorce is finalized.
The Mediation Process
The divorce attorneys will agree on and select a mediator. Thereafter, the judge will sign an order compelling the parties to attend mediation with that mediator. Each of the parties should have an office meeting with their lawyers before the mediation. Typically, I like to have these pre-mediation meetig a couple days before mediatino to work out any detaisl and come up with a game plan.
At the mediation, the parties and their lawyers meet together for an opening in the same room, or in separate rooms. The mediator then goes from room to room, attempting to work out an agreement. Oftentimes, this process goes on for hours. You will have a great deal of time with your lawyer during this process. Ask whatever questions you want because at the end, if there is an agreement, a mediated settlement agreement will be drawn up to sign.
The mediator will then send the mediation agreement to the court and advise that an agreement has been reached. The lawyers will then work out a final judgment for dissolution of marriage. In Florida, one of the parties and their attorney will attend a final hearing, which is usually about 2 weeks after the mediation, depending on the judge’s calendar. At that final hearing, the judge will sign the final judgment of dissolution of marriage and you will be divorced as of that day.
The trial attorneys at Van Riper and Nies Attorneys, an Army Ranger Veteran-owned law firm, have successfully represented spouses in family law cases in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin County and St. Lucie counties. This article is not a substitute for legal advice. For more information about our Family Law practice call 877-322-5291.