Most Floridians view divorce with the same enthusiasm as a trip to a dentist who does not use novocaine. However, the divorce process in Florida has an option that helps relieve most of the stress and anxiety that infects many if not all divorces. The option is called “mediation.”
Understanding the mechanics of mediation can offer an option that may not be as effective as a dentist’s painkillers but which provides a method of resolving disagreements about child custody, child support, alimony and property division without excessive disagreement and without an expensive and time-consuming court trial.
The basics of mediation
The mediation processes relies on the use of a trained intermediary to hear and discuss the concerns of each party. All mediators in Florida are trained to act impartially toward both parties. The mediator does not make any decisions on any issue presented by the parties; instead, the mediator attempts to fully understand the concerns of each party and to suggest potential compromise agreements that can be accepted by both parties.
Mediation begins with a meeting conducted by the mediator and involving both parties and their attorneys. Each party presents their individual concerns. The mediator uses this initial session (and other sessions if appropriate) to gather information and to question each party about their concerns. In most cases, the parties can rely on the mediator’s impartiality and can express their concerns fully and candidly.
Advantages of mediation
Perhaps the greatest benefit of mediation is the opportunity to discuss issues with an impartial listener in a setting that is completely confidential. No statements made in mediation can be introduced as evidence in any subsequent trial. Second, neither party can be forced to accept the terms of any agreement.
No agreement is binding on either party if that party has not voluntarily accepted the agreement. The mediator’s main objective is to obtain that voluntary acceptance from both parties. If the mediation is successful, the parties will avoid the stress and expense of a courtroom trial, which, in the end, may be the biggest advantage of all.
If the parties agree on the resolution of one or more of the issues in the divorce, the terms of the agreement will be reduced to writing by the mediator. The parties may review and comment on the draft. If the agreement is satisfactory, each party will sign it, and it will be submitted to the court for review and signature.
If the parties are unable to resolve their differences, the mediator will report this fact to the judge, and the case will be set for trial. Anyone approaching a divorce may wish to review the process of mediation with an experienced divorce attorney.