Florida Divorce Mediation Information
In Florida, divorce mediation is mandatory in all contested divorces as a way to avoid an all-out, drag-'em-through-the-dirt, courtroom battle. A mediator is a neutral, third party who can help bring a meeting of the minds regarding contested issues.
Divorce mediation in Florida has been a part of the legal process since 1975, according to the Dispute Resolution Center of the Florida State Courts. This makes it one of the most comprehensive, court-connected, mediation programs in the country.
When Does Florida Use Divorce Mediation?
Among those who have contested divorces are:
- All couples who have at least one child under 18
- Any couple where one spouse doesnt agree 100 percent with the terms sought by the spouse who filed for divorce
- Any couple which has one spouse who believes the marriage is not "irretrievably broken" and can be fixed
Mediation is part of the divorce process, a way to reach an agreement without a lengthy trial. According to the Florida Bar Association, the statewide professional and regulatory association of attorneys "Its purpose is not to save a marriage, but to help divorcing couples reach a solution and arrive at agreeable terms for handling their own [divorce]."
Topics of discussion may include division of property and debts, alimony (financial support for one spouse), custody of the children and child support.
Both sides should be represented by attorneys, as many mediators are reluctant to proceed without the spouses attorneys present. According to Floridas 2nd Judicial Circuit Court "Not only are the parties allowed to bring their attorneys, they are encouraged to do so. Remember, the mediator may not give advice or opinion, so the parties must look to their attorney for such advice and opinion."
Florida Divorce Process
After you have filed Florida divorce papers, those documents will be reviewed by a judge who will decide whether divorce mediation is necessary. From the point a judge orders a couple into mediation, they have 10 days to find a mediator. The Supreme Court of Florida must certify all mediators. Lists of certified mediators are available through the local Circuit Courts Family Court Services Division, the court administrator or court clerk. In addition, the Florida Supreme Courts Dispute Resolution Center can also provide names of certified mediators.
A 1992 study by the National Center for State Courts of divorce mediation proceedings in four states, including Florida, found that participants viewed the process as "basically fair and satisfactory … rated more favorably than is traditional court litigation," according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
Circuit Judge Emily A. Peacock of the 13th Judicial Circuit suggests couples consider collaborative mediation. In a collaborative mediation, both sides hire attorneys just for the mediation. Should the couple not come to an agreement on the contested issues, they would then hire new attorneys to proceed through the courts.
"This allows the negotiation process to have a truly free flow of information without the posturing or withholding of information that is common in mediation, arbitration or court settings," Peacock wrote in an article for the Florida Bar Associations Family Law Section newsletter. A cooperative mediation effort, Peacock wrote, "empowers the parties to self-determined outcomes" and makes a future relationship between the divorced spouses more positive.