Mediation is an informal, non-binding process in which an impartial third-party assists couples to resolve all or part of the lawsuit. Mediation has been used for decades as an effective and efficient way to resolve cases without the need for an expensive trial. The two sides select the mediator or in some cases, the court appoints a mediator.
Attending divorce mediation does not mean you are forced to agree to anything—even when the court orders you to mediate. However, it may not be the best use of your time in mediation to go into it with an attitude that you will not agree to anything. This approach can lead to a long, drawn out, and outrageously expensive divorce. Taking advantage of a neutral third-party’s expertise can help save you thousands.
Court Mediation Vs. Private Mediation
A formal mediation is when a mediator, who has no stake in either side of the case, helps you agree on resolution of your case. It may be through a court program, or the parties may choose to use a private mediator. There are pro’s and cons with court mediators versus private mediators.
First, in most South Florida courts, the couple must make less than $100,000.00 combined to qualify for court mediation. If the parties’ financial affidavits show that the combined incomes are greater than $100,000.00 per year, then that couple likely needs to use a private mediator. If you do qualify for a court mediator, the costs are usually much lower than through a private mediator. Court Mediators are usually certified by the Florida Supreme Court, which means they have completed a lengthy course on family case mediations and have completed a number of observations of family mediations before they began mediating on their own. A con of using court mediation is that the parties are likely limited to only a few hours for their mediation. Mediations of a divorce case, where the couple has minor children, a house, and assets to divide can last an entire day if not more. When using court mediation, multiple sessions may be needed and depending on the mediator’s availability, there can be a considerable amount of time between sessions.
On the other hand, while a private mediator is more expensive than a court mediator, it is customary that the parties split the cost of mediation equally, therefore reducing the fee 50%. Further, private mediators have the ability to block off sufficient amounts of time and can even work after hours and weekends to make sure the parties complete settlement on all aspects of their case. In many divorce mediations, third parties such as financial advisors are also present to ensure the financial practicality of settlement before the parties agree.
Both divorce attorneys are usually familiar with the mediator. Your divorce lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer must agree on the mediator. If the attorneys cannot agree, then the judge decides.
Mediators Will Not Make Decisions for You
Mediators use their skills in negotiation along with the help of your attorney to lay out your case’s strengths and weaknesses to help you reach a settlement in your case. Although it may seem overwhelming to be asked to make tough decisions, you must also realize that your ex-spouse is also being asked to do the same in the next room. You have the support of your attorney in assisting you in making decisions but ultimately, it is your own decision on whether to settle.
When a Settlement is Reached
If the parties are able to come to an agreement during mediation, or at any time after mediation, then the agreed-upon terms are drafted into a marital settlement agreement.
The marital settlement agreement will also contain a parenting plan and a child support guidelines worksheet if the parties have minor children.
The marital settlement is signed by both parties and is incorporated into a final judgment so that the court has the ability to enforce the terms of the marital settlement agreement.
Where Can You Turn for Help with the South Florida Divorce Mediation Process?
If you have questions about divorce mediation in Broward, Palm Beach or Miami-Dade Counties or want to know if divorce mediation is right for you, contact The Law Office of Lisa Weber at 561-235-2495 for an initial consultation.