Part 3 – How the Mediation Program of the 19th Judicial Court in Florida Works
As was pointed out in the first and second part of this series, mediation is used frequently in Florida to try to resolve Family Court matters including dissolution of marriage, (divorce), child support and shared parenting, including developing a parenting plan, (child custody) and post judgment modification for alimony, child support and parenting plans. There are, as noted, many advantages to successfully arriving at a signed settlement, benefiting the court, the couple, and the children. But what should a person who is ordered to attend mediation expect? In Florida’s l9th Judicial Circuit, here is how it works.
- When you receive an order for mediation you are expected to get in touch with the mediation services to schedule mediation. Your attorney can help with this, particularly in recommending a mediator with a reputation for successful outcomes.
- Fees vary but you will have to pay a preset amount. This amount is usually split evenly between the two parties attending the mediation. Your attorney will attend the mediation with you, so he or she will also have to be paid as well.
- The mediator will explain how mediation works and set the guidelines to be followed by both parties. He or she will emphasize there is to be no name calling or verbal put-downs and emotions are to be held in check. The value of compromise will be thoroughly explained and parties will be reminded no one person receives everything they want, so it is better to be empowered to make decisions as to who receives what and the care and nurturing of minor children should there be any, than to have a judge do it for them.
- A mediator will ask each side to tell their story. He or she does not take sides but will then encourage both parties to listen to each other and try to look to what is best for moving on into the future for both themselves and their children, should they have any.
- Sometimes the mediator will meet with each party and their attorney separately and sometimes all will meet together, Each time the mediator will go over what has transpired so far and suggest, but never badger or insist, ways of solving issues through compromise and consideration.
- If an agreement is arrived at, the mediator will help the parties create a document which will clearly explain and outline each issue and how the parties choose to resolve the issue. The final settlement must be signed, witnessed, and notarized before it can be presented to a judge for final approval and the judge’s signature.
There is a final piece of information which individuals will find helpful and that is the Mediation Questionnaire which the court provides, to be filled out and returned to the court prior to mediation. Having the answers to these questions by each party will greatly help a mediator in guiding a couple to a hoped-for settlement, even when it appears from answers to the questions there is little likelihood of success.
And so this series on Mediation is concluded. Hopefully, you will have your questions answered and see the advantages of at least trying to take advantage of reaching a settlement during mediation. Should you still have questions or concerns regarding mediation in Florida, you can contact Family Law attorney Grant Gisondo, who in addition to being an attorney, is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Civil Mediator. He offers a free, initial, in-office consultation. Located in Palm Beach Gardens his phone number is (561) 530-4568.