Mediation-Don’t Go it Alone!

The large majority of family law cases never see the bright lights and excitement of a trial.

Instead, most are resolved by the parties, and usually with the help of formal Mediation. As of January 1, 2013, a significant change to Florida’s procedural rules regarding Mediated settlement agreements has made more important than ever for a family law party to understand the danger of mediating without counsel.
Florida Family Law Rule 12.740 is entitled “Family Mediation” and governs procedural aspects of a family law mediation. Until the end of 2012, paragraph (f) of the Rule included a provision to protect parties who attend mediation without legal counsel. According to the old paragraph (f), if counsel of record in a case wasn’t present when the parties reached a mediated settlement agreement, counsel had 10 days to serve written objections to the mediator after being served with said agreement. This important protection allowed a party to save money by leaving her attorney at home for a lengthy mediation but still gave the attorney a chance to ensure everything was on the “up and up” regarding any agreement reached.

As of January 1, 2013, that provision no longer exists. The Florida Supreme Court has removed the 10 day provision from paragraph (f). This change could have serious implications on a family law party that does not show up to mediation prepared and informed. But alas, after reading this post you will not be such a party!

While the deletion of the 10 day provision seems, at first, to limit the ability of family law parties to obtain full review of a mediated agreement reached without their attorney present, that is not the case. All the deletion means is that you do not have the protection of an automatic 10 day period for objection. However, you can ensure that same protection by simply demanding that a review provision be included in your agreement before you sign it. By including language that gives your attorney a certain time period within which to review the agreement and object to any points of concern, you can ensure you have the same protection the paragraph (f) of Rule 12.740 previously provided. You can also refuse to sign any agreement that your attorney will not have the chance to review first.

Of course, you can always take the course of action that gives you the greatest protection–take counsel to your mediation so you can avoid unnecessary hiccups in the first place! If you have a mediation coming up and you don’t want to go it alone, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your options.