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Divorcing couples who resolve their issues amicably through divorce mediation are more likely to comply with the terms of their mediation agreement and less likely to default causing more expensive litigation.

Every divorcing couple is required to attend divorce mediation in the State of Florida.  Consequently, most cases resolve in mediation.  Resolving your case in divorce mediation is financially and emotionally intelligent.  Resolving all of your issues in divorce mediation saves on additional, in-depth discovery, additional and extensive attorney’s fees and other costs for experts, and saves you from having to testify against your soon-to-be former spouse where you might say things you can never take back. 

When do I attend mediation?

Generally, you should attend mediation after all discovery has been concluded.  For example, you and your spouse are both required to gather and exchange a number of financial and other documents which will detail the marital estate to be divided and explain each spouse’s financial condition.  Generally, mediation occurs three (3) to six (6) months after the case is filed.  Mediation can be delayed longer if there is an extensive financial estate or there are issues regarding the children or parenting.  For example, if you and your spouse own several parcels of real property both in Florida and in other states or if you own a family business that needs to be valued, or if you or your spouse has substance abuse or other issues that require special protections for the children, your mediation could be delayed while awaiting appraisals or while you or your spouse attends substance abuse treatment or parenting courses.  This is to your benefit.  In mediation, you will be making decisions about your divorce and life after the divorce is concluded.  It is always best to make these decisions armed with correct information.

If you are attending mediation without hiring an attorney, it is likely that you will attend several sessions.  The first session will be to discuss the marital assets and liabilities and to determine what documents need to be exchanged.  Thereafter, you will attend as many sessions as is required to resolve all issues in your matter.  Attending mediation without the benefit of an attorney is a risky proposition.  Your mediator is not allowed to inform you of the laws of the State of Florida, so you are making decisions based on what you can agree on, which might be vastly different from what you are entitled to.  For example, if your spouse has repeatedly told you that he or she will not give you any retirement that he or she has saved during the marriage and you agree not to take any of the retirement despite the fact that you have accumulated none during the marriage and sacrificed your career to stay home and raise children, you are unknowingly harming yourself.  You will be unable to make up those retirement monies and put yourself at risk for living in poverty during your retirement.  Further, you are entitled by law to one-half of the retirement assets accumulated during the marriage.

What happens the day of mediation?

You and your attorney will show up the day of mediation prepared to negotiate the settlement of your divorce issues.  You will have met with or had a telephone conference with your attorney to discuss what needs to be resolved, what the law is, your wish list and what to expect.  First and foremost, expect mediation to be a long and stressful day.  You will be sitting in an office or conference room with your attorney and your spouse will be sitting in a different office or conference room with his or her attorney, and the mediator will shuttle between the two rooms attempting to resolve the case. 

The mediator will usually start by discussing mediation and confidentiality and what he or she can or cannot do.  Generally the mediator is certified by the Supreme Court of the State of Florida and has been trained to help you think outside the box and resolve your divorce issues.  Your mediator is required to maintain confidentiality of what is said in mediation and can only tell the other party what you give the mediator permission to discuss.  Each mediator operates differently.  Some will ask you or your attorney many questions about the financial estate or the children.  Others will just want to hear the basic facts from both parties before digging in to the negotiations.  Whatever the mediator’s style, your attorney will select a mediator that has a track record of resolving cases.  Further, your attorney will select the best mediator for the issues in your divorce.  For example, if a majority of your issues are the parenting plan and timesharing schedule, your attorney will likely select a mediator that specializes in those issues.  If your issues are largely financial, your attorney may select a CPA as mediator to help resolve your issues.  You should be prepared to hear the mediator challenge your attorney regarding certain claims he or she is making.  This is designed to help you understand whether your claim will be well received by the judge in the event that you cannot resolve your issues in mediation and must prepare for an attend trial, and help you make some changes or concessions to your wish list.

The mediator helps you and your spouse resolve the issues in your case.  Once you have agreed to a resolution, either your attorney, your spouse’s attorney or the mediator will prepare a typewritten settlement agreement.  You and your attorney and your spouse and his or her attorney will review the written agreement and make changes as needed until the agreement accurately reflects the terms of your settlement.  If you have children, your settlement will also include a parenting plan and timesharing schedule.  Both you and your spouse will initial each page of the agreement and sign the agreement in front of two (2) witnesses and a notary, and your divorce issues are resolved.

Most clients find mediation day to be stressful but cathartic.  Once the agreement is signed, a weight is lifted from you and your spouse’s shoulders, and you can move on to the next chapter in your life.  Sometimes, however, there is not enough time to resolve all issues in one day and you and your attorney will schedule a second day or half day of mediation to resolve the remaining issues.  This is common and a smart way to make sure your matter resolves in mediation. 

Can we mediate temporary issues? 

Divorce mediation is often used and at times ordered by the Court to resolve temporary issues.  You may attend mediation to resolve temporary support issues or even just one particular issue such as preparing a parenting plan and timesharing schedule.   Many courts require mediation before attending hearings on temporary issues.  This helps ease the jammed court dockets and will allow you to resolve your issues quickly and less expensively.  Often times it could take months before you have a hearing on a temporary issue you have in your divorce.  This is because there are so many divorce and other family law cases in Florida and each judge has only so many hours in a day to hear everything. 

Can the mediator force me to do anything?

One huge misconception about mediation is that the mediator can act like a judge and order or tell you or your spouse how to resolve your matter or what actions to take or refrain from taking.  Mediators are not judges.  They cannot require you or your spouse to do anything.  Their job in your matter is to help you make the best decisions about your case and to resolve it without the necessity of costly court intervention by negotiating an agreement that is fair to both you and your spouse.  The hallmark of a good settlement is one in which neither spouse is happy, but one in which both can live with.

What is the cost of mediation?

The cost of mediation is driven by many factors.  If you and your spouse combined earn less than $100,000.00 per year, you qualify for court subsidized mediation at the courthouse.  Court subsidized mediation is usually a fixed cost, not charged by the hour.  Generally, if you and your spouse attend court subsidized mediation, you will be allocated 2-3 hours to obtain a settlement.  You, your spouse, the mediator and any attorneys will all sit in the same room.  The mediator or either side may request a caucus which is when one side leaves the room and allows the other side to discuss issues with the mediator confidentially.  If you cannot resolve your issues in the time allocated, you may schedule another session.  You and your spouse will be required to pay the mediation fee again, but that fee is extremely reasonable.

If you are attending private mediation, your mediator will charge anywhere from $250.00 per hour to $450.00 per hour.  The day of mediation seems expensive, but that cost is pro-rated between you and your spouse for the day.  Even if you have a ten hour mediation with a mediator who charges $350.00 per hour and your mediation cost is $3,500.00 which is shared in some manner between you and your spouse, that cost is still much less expensive than preparing for litigation which will cost you at least $10,000.00 for just your attorney.

If you have further questions regarding divorce mediation, the attorneys at Fixel Neave, P.A. are happy to help.  We offer free consultations and accept all major credit cards as payment for divorce mediation services.  We can be reached by calling 954-981-2200 or by completing our online contact form.

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(954) 981-2200

12 SE 7th Street
Suite 601 
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301