Definition of Mediation
Mediation is a method of nonbinding dispute resolution involving a neutral third party who tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution. -Black’s Law Dictionary
The Legal Process of Mediation in Florida
Mediation is a non-binding procedure used to facilitate the resolution of civil disputes, including divorce, and is often required by the Court. During mediation, each party and their lawyers meets with a neutral, third-party mediator who is trained in the resolution of disputes. Sometimes the mediator will be an attorney, however, most of the time the mediator is not an attorney. During mediation, the parties, their lawyers and the mediator discuss each side’s respective positions on all outstanding issues in the case, including issues of time-sharing, child support, alimony, equitable distribution, etc. Sometimes, both parties and their lawyers are all in the same room with the mediator; however, sometimes each side is placed in a separate room where the mediator will float back and forth between the rooms, attempting to reach a middle-ground in the settlement of the issues in the divorce case. If a settlement is reached, then the mediation can become binding if the parties sign a written, binding Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement.
Types of Mediation in Florida
What happens if a settlement is not reached in Mediation?
While the goal of mediation is to reach a settlement, that does not always happen in every case. If a settlement cannot be reached, then the mediator will declare that the mediation resulted in an “impasse”. Provided that no other mediation is attempted and the case is not thereafter settled, the case will ultimately be decided by the family law judge.
Am I required to go through the process of Mediation?
Yes, in most all contested family law cases in Florida, including divorce cases, modification cases, and relocation cases, the parties are ordered to mediation by the Judge at least one time before the Judge will schedule a final hearing to decide the issues.
What are the benefits of Mediation?
Ultimately, mediation of your case will likely save you a lot of time and money. If the case goes to a final contested hearing, your attorney will have to spend a large amount of time preparing your case to be tried before the Judge. Not only will you be required to pay for your attorney’s preparation time, but you will also be required to pay for the time your attorney spends in the courtroom arguing your case before the Judge. It some situations, the Judge may even order that you are responsible for paying the other party’s attorney’s fees. This can wind up being very expensive.
If you attempt mediation, however, you can often times settle your case toward the beginning phase and therefore save a lot of time and a lot of money in attorney’s fees. In addition to saving time and money, many parties who settle their cases through mediation end up feeling emotionally happier after their divorce case is over. This is because the parties themselves will have been a part of deciding how their case will be resolved and what their respective obligations will be, rather than a Judge (who is a stranger) deciding intimate aspects of their lives. Mediation is a great, cost-effective method for resolving your divorce case, and should be explored should you find yourself in the midst of a divorce.
How much does Mediation cost?
Courthouse mediation in Hillsborough and most other counties in Florida costs between $60.00 and $120.00 for each party depending on the income of the parties. In Hillsborough county, for example, the cost of courthouse mediation services is $60.00 per party if the parties’ combined income is less than $50,000 a year, and $120.00 per party of the the parties’ combined income is more than $50,000 a year.
Private mediation can be expensive because the private mediators are often highly skilled and charge an hourly rate for their services. Private mediators usually charge an hourly rate that is somewhat comparable to the hourly rate charged by the parties’ attorneys.
With both types of mediation, there is also a cost associated with your attorney’s preparation and their time spent at the mediation.