Divorce Mediation Laws In Florida

Several divorcing couples contemplate between utilizing the collaborative family law approach or mediation to promptly resolve their divorce disputes. Though both options allow couples to decide how to best resolve any pending issues, mediation is the more reasonable approach to utilize.

What is Divorce Mediation?

Divorcing couples routinely use mediators to help resolve their disputes without the court’s oversight. Mediation allows a divorcing couple to use a neutral party to help bring them together in a controlled environment while negotiating the terms of their case, which may include child support, custody and visitation, alimony, and property division.

The mediator is present to help the couple reach an agreement and does not make any decisions for the couple. Further the mediator does not provide legal advice to either party.

How Does Mediation Work?

During mediation, both parties negotiate directly with each other regarding the terms of their divorce. Some parties prefer to have their attorney present during mediation, but some mediators advise against it.

Prior to attending mediation, each party will call the mediator and provide background information about the marriage and any pending divorce issues. Upon attending the first meeting, the mediator will explain what you can expect throughout the process and what to expect from him/her.

Once an agreement is reached, the mediator, or the party’s attorney, will draft a marital settlement agreement. Upon final execution, the marital settlement agreement will be attached to the final judgment.

Is Mediation Right for You?

Mediation is a great legal tool divorcing couples can employ to reach an agreement regarding the dissolution of their marriage without the assistance of the court.

Under most circumstances, mediation is more cost effective than collaborative law. This is in large part due to the legal fees of attorneys during the collaborative law approach. As mentioned above, couples that utilize mediation can choose to obtain counsel, or go through the process unrepresented until a marital settlement agreement is reached.

Further, because mediators are often used during the collaborative law approach when the couples cannot reach an agreement, it is usually the best initial course to take.

If you are considering using a mediator or the collaborative law approach, contact our office for guidance. Our Orlando divorce mediation lawyers can review your case and recommend the appropriate course of action to take on your behalf.

Common Divorce Mediation Myths

In Florida, divorce mediation is becoming increasingly common. Not every divorce becomes a knock down, drag out legal battle. In many cases divorcing couples just want out, they do not want to spend huge sums of money on divorce lawyers and they also want what is best for the children. A litigated divorce rarely does not negatively impact the children on several levels.

Many people have a preconceived notion about divorce mediation, how it works and what is involved. Please read some of the more common myths below.

Myth: Mediation allows one spouse to dominate another.

Fact: A good mediator pays close attention to the power balance between the spouses and uses specific techniques to address any imbalance. If one spouse persists in dominating behavior, the mediator will call a stop to the mediation rather than allowing it to continue. One caveat: Even the best mediator can be unaware of a power imbalance if it only goes on outside of the mediation sessions and the spouses don’t let the mediator know about it.

Myth: Women are at a disadvantage in mediation.

Fact: Women are no more at a disadvantage in mediation than in divorce court. In fact, women can often obtain a better result in mediation than they can in court, because the mediation process allows separating spouses to negotiate an agreement that considers nonlegal factors. Also, except for court-ordered (mandatory) mediation, a woman is free to stop the mediation or refuse to sign an agreement that seems unfair to her.

Myth: Mediation is more of a hassle than hiring a lawyer to handle the divorce.

Fact: Whether divorcing spouses mediate or hire a lawyer to handle the divorce, they have to do a certain amount of gathering information and making decisions. Mediation offers a streamlined approach to the information-gathering and decision-making processes. In contrast, using the courts is cumbersome and expensive.

Myth: Mediation is for wimps.

Fact: In mediation, the spouses stand up for themselves and what they want. They don’t have lawyers speaking for them and telling them what to do. As a result, people who mediate often come out of their divorce with enhanced communication skills and self-confidence, as well as agreements they can really live with.

Myth: Mediation makes the divorce take longer.

Fact: Mediation almost always takes less time than litigating a divorce. Unless the spouses have worked everything out ahead of time, hiring lawyers to handle the divorce will almost always take as long or longer than mediating, even if the lawyers are able to settle out of court.

Myth: There’s no place for lawyers in mediation.

Fact: Lawyers who understand and support mediation can help mediating spouses in several ways: by informing them of their legal rights and options, by coaching them through the negotiations, by coming up with creative settlement ideas, and by preparing the necessary divorce paperwork once an agreement is signed. Most consulting lawyers charge a reasonable hourly fee and don’t require a large retainer (advance deposit). A spouse pays for only as much consulting time as is needed.

Myth: All divorce lawyers understand and support mediation.

Fact: Divorce mediation is still a relatively new way of approaching divorce. Many adversarial lawyers have little or no experience with the non-adversarial approach used in mediation. Some even disapprove of mediation, arguing that divorcing spouses should not negotiate on their own but only through lawyers. These attitudes are slowly changing, as divorce lawyers become more aware of mediation and its benefits for their clients. Meanwhile, spouses wishing to mediate their divorce need to find consulting lawyers who are “mediation-friendly.”

Myth: In mediation, the mediator decides what’s fair.

Fact: Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, a mediator has no power to make decisions for the divorcing spouses. The mediator’s job is to help the spouses negotiate an agreement that each of them considers fair enough to accept.

Myth: Mediation is always the best option for every divorcing couple.

Fact: Mediation works for most divorcing couples. As long as both spouses are able to speak up for what’s important to them and can behave themselves appropriately in mediation, the process can work for them. On the other hand, mediation may not offer enough protection and structure for some couples. For example, a couple with domestic violence or substance abuse issues may need to have lawyers speak for them instead of trying to negotiate directly. In addition, some spouses may prefer to assume the risks and cost of adversarial litigation in order to make a point or assert a legal right rather than compromise in a settlement.

Contact An Orlando Divorce Mediation Attorney

If you are considering divorce and have questions regarding divorce mediation please contact Orange County Florida Divorce Mediation Lawyer Meg Lyons at (407) 476-3437. Orlando Family Law Lawyer Meg Lyons serves those with family law issues as well as those who are in need of financial relief in the Orlando, Florida area. In addition, she also helps those with financial issues who are seeking debt relief via filing bankruptcy.