What is Mediation?
Mediation, a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution, is a tool in the divorce or family law process that enables parties to come together to try to settle their case in order to avoid the financial and emotional cost of going to trial. Most Florida Courts require parties in divorce and family law cases to attend mediation before moving forward with trial, and it is the part of the divorce process that allows the parties to maintain the most control over their family’s future. While not all cases can be resolved, most cases end up settling in mediation – with the right attorneys, mediators, and attitudes, positive results can be achieved.
Mediation is a fairly informal process: the parties, attorneys and mediator work together to resolve the issues that arise as a result of a divorce or other family law proceeding. Ideally, each party and his or her attorney arrive at the mediation having already exchanged “discovery,” or information with each other, and are ready to negotiate regarding issues such as a parenting plan, visitation or timesharing, child custody or parental responsibility, alimony, equitable distribution, child support, attorney’s fees, and more.
Almost everything discussed in mediation is confidential, meaning the other party, attorneys and mediator cannot tell the Court what you discussed, or even what you were willing to settle with. Because mediation is a confidential process, the parties can be honest with each other without compromising their legal positions.
Who is the Mediator?
A mediator is a trained and certified, neutral third person who doesn’t know anything about the case, other than what the parties present. It is the mediator’s job to push each party a little closer to the middle, brainstorm creative solutions, and encourage settlement. Mediators do not take either party’s side and are not allowed to give legal advice. They are only responsible for helping the parties reach, draft and execute an agreement to settle either part or all of the divorce or family law case. The mediator helps the parties argue on principal, not emotion.
The Settlement Agreement
If mediation is successful and the parties agree to settle some or all of the issues, the parties execute a mediated settlement agreement. If all issues are settled at mediation, the parties attend a brief uncontested final hearing to finalize the divorce or other family law proceeding, and make the agreement law. If the parties don’t come to an agreement on any or all of the issues, they can try to mediate or settle again, or proceed to a trial on the issues remaining.
Mediation is the Best Tool to Settle Your Case
By resolving your case at mediation, you not only avoid the financial and emotional cost of going to trial, but you also get to decide your own destiny. Rather than leaving the important decisions up to a judge to decide, parties in mediation can come to their own agreement, after entertaining lots of options and talking them through. By resolving your case in a confidential environment, without trial, you are able to avoid having to expose intimate details about your family and personal life in a public court room and in public court records.
An experienced family law attorney will guide you through mediation, making sure all the important issues are addressed. Your attorney can provide you with knowledge of what your legal rights may be and then you can decide if a settlement offer is acceptable. Even if only part of your case is settled at mediation, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that at least some issues are behind you and that another mediation, less complicated final hearing, or trial may be all that is required to conclude your case.
Consult with an Attorney Before Mediation
Divorce and other family law proceedings are often complex and overwhelming. In order to best protect your rights and interests, you should hire an experienced family law attorney to prepare for and represent you at your mediation. At the minimum, you should consult with an attorney to help you determine your rights and responsibilities, so you can be better prepared to negotiate. Consulting with an attorney prior to mediation can help you ensure that your prior case filings, or case record, has the foundation necessary to obtain your ultimate goals and keep you focused on getting the relief you actually need as opposed to making decisions out of anger or emotion. An experienced family law attorney will also educate you – not only concerning the legal intricacies of your case, but also regarding the cost of taking your case to trial if you do not settle. With the knowledge and experience of a family law attorney on your side, you will be best equipped to make decisions about your case.
To speak to an Attorney with Levinson & Capuano, LLC about representation at Mediation contact Info@BrowardLegal.com or (954) 703-2110.