What is Family Law Mediation?
Mediation is the process by which a trained and independent third-party assists the parties in resolving their dispute dispute. Your mediation may resolve all issues in your case, but does not have to. Often parties will reach a partial agreement at mediation, narrowing the issues that need to be presented to the Court.
During your mediation, you have the chance to present your goals to the mediator who will then facilitate a conversation between you and the other party. It is a lower pressure alternative to litigation that lets the parties control the resolution.
Do I have to attend Mediation?
In Florida, most Family Law Courts will require the you to attend mediation before allowing you set a hearing and seek relief from the Court.
What happens if I decide not to attend mediation after I have received notice?
Unless you physically unable, you should not skip a schedule mediation. If you fail to appear at a properly noticed mediation, and you don’t have a good reason for not showing up, the other party can seek sanctions against you. These sanctions can include an award of mediator and attorneys’ fees, other costs against you, and you will also have really upset your Judge!
What does mediation cost?
The cost of mediation (excluding the Parties’ own attorney’s fees) depends on whether you attend private mediation with a private mediator, or take advantage of mediation at your County Courthouse. The cost of private mediation is based on the mediator’s hourly rate, which is generally determined by the mediator’s experience, reputation, and training. If private mediation is too costly, many counties allow you to attend mediation at the Courthouse, with a Court-approved mediator, at a significant discount. The cost when mediating at the Courthouse depends on the income of the parties. For example, in Orange and Osceola Counties, the costs are determined as follows:
- If the combined gross income of the Parties is less than $50,000, the fee is $60.00 per Party, for up to one 3 hour session.
- If the combined gross income of two Parties is less than $100,000, but more than $50,000, the fee is $120.00 per Party for up to one 3 hour session.
- If the combined gross income of the Parties exceeds $100,000 the Parties can select a private mediator or the Court can provide a list of mediators from which you can choose. If the Parties can’t agree on a mediator, the court will appoint one on from the list.
- If you cannot afford to pay any cost for mediation, you have the opportunity to apply for indigent status. For those the Court deems indigent, the fee is waived.
Does the Mediator render a decision that is binding?
No. In fact, the mediator doesn’t render any decisions. Instead, the parties steer the ship in mediation. Unlike arbitration, where an arbitrator issues a decision that normally binds the parties, the goal of the mediator is to facilitate the Parties, through negotiation, to reach an agreement. If you do not like the options discussed at mediation, you are under no obligation to agree to them. Remember, in a mediation the parties are in charge!
What happens if we can’t come to an agreement?
If you can’t reach an agreement at mediation, the mediator will file a report stating the parties are at an “impasse.” Thereafter, you can pursue further mediation, negotiate informally, or put your dispute before the Court.
Do we have to resolve all issues at mediation?
No. You are free to resolve any, all, or none of the issues involved. If you reach a partial agreement, the mediator will notify the Court and you will have reduced the time and money that will be necessary going forward. Keep in mind, however, that if whether you reach a full or partial agreement, once the Court ratifies the agreement, you will be bound to honor it.