Is Mediation Mandatory in Florida Family Law Cases?
Contrary to popular belief, family mediation is not an attempt to help two parties resolve their differences, reconcile their love for one another, and put a halt on the divorce proceedings. Rather, it is a process designed to help two parties discuss their issues and come to an agreement that is beneficial to all involved parties—and without having to go through litigation, which can be costly and time consuming. Though mediation is not an initial requirement of divorce, it almost always becomes one. This is because most divorces, and the subsequent issues divorce raises, such as child custody, child support, and alimony, inevitably become contested. Moreover, though not mandatory under § 44.102, the section that deals with mediation in Florida, many civil cases filed in Florida will be referred to mediation by agreement or order at some point during the proceedings. In fact, most judges in Palm Beach County require mediation prior to trial.
In short: mediation is not required, but if you want to file for divorce, establish a custody or support agreement, or modify an existing agreement, the court will likely refer you to mediation before it will hear your case.
The Benefits of Mediation
One of the greatest benefits of mediation is that it gives parties control over the outcome of the case.
During mediation, each party is able to freely express his or her wishes for the outcome of the divorce, custody case, or modification. The two parties are encouraged to listen to each other in a controlled environment and negotiate their own agreement. A settlement is not imposed upon mediating parties, instead, the parties create their own agreement, which often results in greater satisfaction with the outcome of the case. In comparison, parties who go through trial have no choice but to accept the judgement made, whether or not they are happy with it.
How Mediation Works
When two parties either agree to mediation or are referred to mediation by a judge, a mediator will be assigned to their case. The parties will meet, often represented by their respective attorneys, to negotiate on terms such as child support, alimony, custody, and property division. In cases in which there is a significant amount of animosity between the two parties, the mediator will attempt to help the parties find a reasonable, fair, and agreeable solution.
An experienced attorney can advise his or her client on the right questions to ask and how best to state his or her wishes. A lawyer can also support his or her client and ensure that the client does not sacrifice his or her own wishes simply for the sake of getting mediation over with. Though mediation is about compromise and negotiation, it is by no means a way to force one party into a quick and undesirable settlement for the sake of keeping the peace.
Our Boca Raton Mediation Lawyers Are Prepared to Help You
Mediation is almost a guarantee in any Florida divorce. Make the most of your sessions and retain the help of a Boca Raton attorney who possesses strong negotiation skills, determination, and the knowledge necessary to help you obtain a favorable outcome. Contact Wise Lieberman, PLLC, to discuss your case and what you need to do to prevail in your family law case today.