The Benefits of Using Divorce Mediation
In the state of Florida, any time a divorce action has any issues that are contested the case must go to a mandatory settlement conference known as mediation.
The mediation is an official court appointment where the lawyers and their clients sit down with the assistance of a Florida Supreme Court certified divorce mediator and attempt to resolve the issues in the case by agreement. On average 50% to 75% of divorces in Orlando Florida settle at mediation, or shortly after mediation after additional discussion by the divorce attorneys.
When the parties first show up to the mediation they will have the option to conduct the settlement conference for their divorce together in the same room with the other party, or, in separate rooms. Regardless of which option they choose the mediator will begin the session with a brief introduction about themselves and the mediation process.
This introduction usually will include a discussion about how mediation is confidential and how neither side will be able to go back and testify at a later hearing about any settlement offers that were made at the divorce mediation. The only exceptions to this confidentiality rule are if somebody discloses abuse of a child or an elderly person, or discloses that a serious crime is about to take place.
After the mediator completes their introduction it will then be the task of the petitioner spouse’s attorney to give a brief introduction of the case, the issues in the case, what their client is seeking, and some light legal argument to get the other side thinking. Next, it is the respondent’s opportunity to provide a similar introduction.
After the introductions are complete the parties will begin to engage in negotiations on the facts in the case. The majority of the time the mediator will separate the parties into separate rooms after the introduction phase is complete and the mediator will travel back and forth between each room delivering the details of the negotiation between both sides.
Who pays the fee for divorce mediation and how much does it cost?
The two possible types of divorce mediation that can take place in your case are private mediation or court-provided mediation. The lawyers will consider the joint combined income of the parties in the divorce case and if that number is into the six figures then the lawyers will utilize a private mediator.
Private divorce mediators are typically semiretired family law and divorce attorneys and judges who know the law very well and are skilled at assisting these types of clients in reaching settlements.
Private mediators carry a typical hourly rate of $250 per hour. Though this may sound very expensive most of the time it is a very good investment because an experienced private mediator will really roll up their sleeves and work hard to assist the parties in reaching a divorce settlement agreement.
If the joint combined income of the parties is less than $100,000 per year then the parties would likely go to court-provided mediation where the session is conducted by a mediator who is compensated by the county and less so by the parties to the case. While there are some high-quality mediators in the court-provided mediation departments there is a risk that your case will be handled by a court-provided mediator who does not have the same level of experience and skill in settling cases that a private mediator would have.
Nonetheless, even if you are forced to use a court-provided mediator you still have every opportunity to settle the case since the ultimate decision-making power in reaching a settlement is in the hands of the parties to the divorce action and not just the mediator.
It is very important for anyone getting ready for mediation to understand that it is usually in everyone’s best interests to work very hard at mediation to obtain a settlement to the case. This is because procedurally if there is no settlement at mediation then the lawyers for the parties must begin getting ready for trial. A trial is a very unpredictable, unsettling, time-consuming, and expensive process.
For this reason, it is extremely important to ensure that you are doing everything you possibly can to reach an amicable settlement to your divorce at mediation.
Sean Smallwood is an Orlando divorce attorney for the law firm Sean Smallwood, Orlando Divorce & Family Law P.A. where he represents clients in all areas of family law and divorce. 100% of the practice is devoted to family law. As an attorney in Orlando, he has helped many families with a wide variety of family law cases including Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and many other issues.