How Mediation Can Bring Your Case to a Close Faster and Cheaper
Mediation, defined by Florida’s. Nineteenth Circuit Court—Family Mediation Program “is a process in which two people work together with a neutral third person (the mediator) to discuss the issues in their case and try to work them out. Mediation often occurs with both people in the same room.” In Florida, mediation in the Family Law courts is, for most jurisdictions, a requirement for a couple seeking dissolution of marriage (divorce) or modification of child support, timesharing, parenting plan, and alimony (the types which can be modified). Many of those seeking a divorce think the step of mediation is an unnecessary waste of time and money, yet this idea is far from the truth. Unless a couple absolutely refuses to work in any way toward an outcome reasonable and as fair as possible, taking advantage of the positives a mediation can offer is a way to bring the case to close faster and cheaper.
When mediation is successful, a Marital Settlement Agreement, sometimes referred to as an MSA, is written, signed by both parties, witnessed, and notarized and sent to the judge for his or her approval and the signing of the final decree of dissolution of marriage. A mediation takes several hours and can be scheduled within a short period of time, whereas taking the case to court can take up to several months to be heard. Family courts in Florida are backed up for months in most jurisdictions. And, when the case does go before a judge, the judge, not the parties, will make decisions as to the distribution of assets and debts, alimony, child support, parental timesharing, parenting plan, who gets the pets, and any other matter needing to be solved before the divorce is final. No one ever receives all he or she hopes for in a final judgment, so working together during a mediation to compromise will give a couple control over the way their divorce is settled. Florida is an equitable distribution state, not equal, which means assets and liabilities will be distributed fairly at the discretion of either the parties during mediation or by the judge in court.
It is common knowledge divorces cost money. Even in a no-fault state like Florida, there are costs, and some of the costs can be high. Unless there are no children, no real marital property, and both parties agree on all issues, a divorce will be termed contested and must go through mediation and then possibly to court. Hiring an attorney becomes necessary which is expensive. However, a good way to dramatically lower attorney costs is to settle during mediation with an MSA. The attorney will have gathered facts and proof and prepared for the mediation and will be with his or her client during the mediation itself. Should a MSA be reached, the attorney will see the MSA to court, prepare the final paperwork and be finished. However, should the case fail to establish an MSA and proceed to a judge, the attorney will be needed for many additional and costly services including, depositions, interrogatories, hiring expert witnesses, motions, disclosure, and request for production. Answering the opposing attorney’s requests will be an additional expense as well. The cost for mediation is minimal in comparison to a case going to court and this expense is divided equally between the parties.
Deciding whether to take advantage of the shortened time and lessened expense of finalizing a dissolution of marriage through a mediated marital settlement agreement is something to consider seriously. Compromise can be difficult, but it can also be rewarding. Other legal matters which qualify for mediation such as modifications, will also benefit as time lessened and money saved rather than going to court. Should you have questions about mediation in Florida and live in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, or Hillsborough county or in New York or Washington DC, Attorney Grant Gisondo can answer them. He offers a free, initial, in-office consultation for answering your questions and sharing how he can help. His office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and on Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM for new clients. Call
561-530-4568 to make an appointment.