Why do I have to attend mediation in Florida to get divorced?
Florida Courts require parents to attend mediation in order to get a divorce when there are children involved. There are a few exceptions to this rule, usually when there is a history of domestic violence, but in some other cases as well. Mediation is a voluntary process, although this seems strange, given that it is required. What I mean when I say it is voluntary, is that a mediator can not make decisions about your case. A mediator is not a Judge, he or she is a person who should be skilled in negotiation and should help to creative problem solve the outstanding issues and assist you and the other party in reaching an agreement.
All of the outstanding issues in a divorce, see our video on PEACE (the issues required to be addressed in a divorce), can be addressed and possibly resolved at mediation. While you may be able to reach an agreement on all of the outstanding issues, it is also possible that you will only reach an agreement on some of the issues, or possibly none of the issues. For example, you may be able to reach an agreement of equitable distribution (the distribution of debts and assets) but not custody, or vise versa.
It is important to know that an agreement signed at mediation is binding – just as binding actually as a Court order. So, once signed it is VERY difficult to get out that agreement if not impossible. As a result, you need to be very certain that you are satisfied and can live with the agreement before signing. Having a lawyer with you at mediation helps to ensure you are making a good decision, have weighed all of the options, understand what you are agreeing to and that the agreement is written well to protect your rights and actually accomplish what you think you are trying to accomplish.
Mediated resolutions are often better for children as we can be more thorough and thoughtful with custody agreements in mediation. This results in much more customized parenting plans than you will ever be able to get from a Judge.
In today's world, mediation is most commonly held over Zoom. You and the other party will likely be in separate Zoom Rooms, each with your own attorney. The mediator will go back and forth between the rooms and assist you in reaching an agreement. Mediations last several hours, if not more, commonly. You may likely be responsible for some of the mediator's fees for mediation. Using a good and experienced mediator helps to ensure the money is not wasted and that, at least, some of your issues get resolved. Resolving even some of the issues at mediation helps to reduce your overall costs of a divorce. For this reason, our firm tries to mediate early in the case and we try diligently to settle cases to save our client's money for their families instead of legal fees.
While we promote settling divorce cases, especially those with children, at our firm, we do not promote settling at ANY cost, only at a reasonable and fair cost. Whether an agreement is fair or reasonable is a very fact specific analysis that requires us to know the facts of your case and your personal circumstances.