During the divorce process there may come a time when the parties are at a standstill as to how to divide assets, allocate debts or address alimony and parenting schedules. In some Florida divorce cases, the parties may decide that mediation may work to help bridge the differences. A judge may also decide that court-ordered mediation is in order.
Mediation can be a cost saving alternative to a lengthy divorce proceeding where attorney's fees can add up quickly. With that in mind, couples with combined incomes under $100,000 qualify for flat rate, per party mediation fees through special state sponsored programs. Read on to learn if a Florida mediation is a viable alternative for your divorce.
The Role of the Mediator
Divorce mediators in Florida are specially appointed by the court system. The mediators are always neutral third parties and are sworn to always work for the good of the mutual parties and should not attempt to force either party into a resolution. You will have to pay a per session, per person fee to the mediator and may have to hire a private mediator if your combined income is above the $100,000 threshold.
The Mediation Process
During your mediation, both parties will work towards an agreement on key issues involving settlement. These can include alimony or spousal support, divisions of assets or how debts should be split between the parties. The mediator can also assist the parties in coming to an agreement regarding retirement benefits or other assets.
When you are ordered, or request mediation from the court, you will receive a document called an Order of Referral to Family Court Mediation. A list of names of mediators who are approved by the court will be provided. If both parties cannot agree on a mediator from the list, court Mediation Services are available to independently make a selection. You will have a set number of days to schedule mediation and, if mediation is successful, you will be required to file the mediated settlement agreement with the court during a requested hearing, in order to confirm the division of assets and liabilities and finalize your separation.
Parenting coordination is another alternative to lengthy court hearings that can benefit the parties in a divorce or custody proceedings. Parenting coordination is child focused, which means the focus is on enabling the parents of any minor children to work together and cooperate in establishing custody and visitation. During parenting coordination, unlike mediation in which both parties must agree to terms, if a court has ordered this alternative, the mediation may also make certain decisions regarding custody and visitation.
Do I Need a Lawyer for my Florida Divorce Mediation?
While mediation and parenting coordination are useful alternatives to formal court hearings, you may still wish to consider bringing a lawyer with you to either proceeding. A lawyer experienced in mediation and other alternatives to divorce hearings can ensure that your rights are protected and that you clearly understand the entire mediation process. Contact the Law Offices of Justin McMurray, P.A. to schedule a free consultation regarding your Florida court ordered or voluntary mediation.