In Florida, mediation is a tool used in family court matters to help parties resolve differences and reach an agreement. If used appropriately, mediation can be faster, cut legal expenses, and help the parties come to terms on a contested issue before the court hears it.
Typically, a Florida Supreme Court certified mediator will conduct the process. The court's rules and statutes require that the mediator:
- Remain neutral and unbiased towards both parties;
- Work for the mutual good of bother parties; and
- Never force either party into an agreement.
Courts may often order the parties to attempt mediation before trial to settle those issues where the parties can agree. See Fl. Stats. § 44.102.
Mediation is Confidential
Mediation proceedings and discussions are typically confidential, except where the law provides otherwise, so parties can speak more freely than they could in court. Nothing said in mediation can be repeated to anyone other than the other party's attorney, if they aren't present at the mediation. See Fl. Stat. §§ 44.401 – 406.
Parties Reach a Mutual Agreement
In mediation, both parties have more control over their case and the outcome. If a contested issue, or the entire divorce or custody dispute ends up in trial, the court controls the outcome. Because the parties have more buy-in and more control in mediation, they can usually resolve their case sooner.
Settle Substantive Issues
The parties can resolve most issues in mediation or resolve only those matters upon which they haven't been able to agree. Issues resolved in mediation may include:
- Division of Assets and Debts: In mediation, the parties can determine a fair and equitable division of their assets and debts, determining who will get what and who will pay for what.
- Additional Entitlements: Are there other entitlements like retirement accounts or life insurance proceeds that the parties should consider?
- Alimony or Spousal Support: If needed, either party can seek permanent or temporary alimony, lump-sum alimony, or rehabilitative alimony.
- Shared Parenting Plan and Support: The parties will consider visitation arrangements and schedules; child support, whether determined by Florida statute or mutual agreement; life insurance and health insurance; other medical and dental expenses; future education costs; and any other issues.
The court may also order Parenting Coordination, a similar alternative dispute resolution process that helps the parties develop a shared parenting plan.
Mediation can cost significantly less than a full trial with multiple court hearings. Florida law sets the cost of mediation and reduces rates for families with income under $100,000 a year. The parties need to file a financial affidavit so that the court can set the rate for your mediation, and then you must pay all the fees to the court before the mediation. If your income exceeds $100,000 a year, you will hire a private mediator and pay the mediator directly at an agreed-upon rate. See Fl. Stats. § 44.108.
Income $50,000 - $100,000
$120 per party per session
Income $49,999 and under
$60 per party per session
If you and your partner can file a Marital Settlement Agreement before the date of your mediation, you can request a refund of all fees.
If you or someone you know needs assistance or representation with a mediation, contact Orlando family law attorneys, Veliz Katz Law for a consultation.