Today I am going to talk about what is mediation and how mediation can facilitate the resolution of a family law case.
Mediation is a non-adversarial process by which a mediator is appointed by the Court or selected by the parties to assist the parties in resolving their case. The mediation process is bound by confidentiality which means anything that is said in mediation stays in that room. The Judge does not find out what happens in mediation. This is helpful because it allows the parties to discuss their case with the mediator with the utmost confidence. The Mediator’s role is to transmit only the information the party authorizes the mediator to discuss with the other party.
Parties, both pro se (self represented) and parties represented by counsel can submit to mediation.
The parties enter the office of the mediator and, usually with their counsel, and everyone sits in a room with the mediator. This is the joint session. The mediator gives an opening statement and reminds the parties about the confidentiality of mediation. At the joint session, the parties have an opportunity to also give an opening statement. After the joint session, the parties then proceed to different rooms. This is called a caucus where the party and his or her attorney sit with the mediator outside of the presence of the opposing party to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of his or her case. The party then gives the mediator an offer to work with that he or she wishes the mediator to present to the other side. The mediator’s role now becomes one of a negotiator going back and forth between the parties until hopefully an agreement is reached as to all the issues concerning child support, alimony, parenting plan, equitable distribution and attorney fees.
Yes. This is called presuit mediation where the parties, usually unrepresented, attend a mediation conference to resolve their dispute. This is the cheapest way to resolve a dispute and it saves the parties a lot of money in legal fees. Of course, if the case is hotly contested and the case does not settle, then the parties must litigate the case but mediation is still an option before a trial.
Yes mediation is cheaper than litigation because the mediator charges an hourly rate split between the parties and, if you settle, a Marital Settlement Agreement is drafted and the parties sign it. Then the case is ready for Final Hearing before the Judge.
I recommend that if the case is in court, that the parties get their financial mandatory disclosures out of the way at the beginning and then go to mediation to resolve the dispute efficiently without the expense of unnecessary attorney fees.
Arturo R. Alfonso, Esq is a Supreme Court of Florida certified family mediator as well as family law attorney in Miami Dade County, FL. For an appointment, you can call (305) 266-9584 for a free consultation.