How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

Florida Negotiation Mediation

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

There may come a point in some divorce cases when a client may ask: “So… how does divorce mediation work?”. When couples can’t agree on certain issues, the Florida Family Court may direct the divorcing couple (or the parties may agree to going) to mediation. The goal is for the spouses to work out their own Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) without court intervention (i.e., trial).

In mediation, the spouses and their attorneys meet with a neutral third party, sometimes someone who is appointed by the court, who oversees their negotiations and attempts to guide them to a mutual resolution of their issues. While the parties need not have an attorney present, it is often a good idea to choose to have their attorneys present.

The process may take a few hours or continue over several meetings, depending on the number of issues and the ability of the divorcing spouses to work together to resolve the necessary issues, such as asset and liability division, who stays in the family home, whether or not there will be spousal support and issues involving child custody, visitation and child support.

Meeting with a mediator

At the first meeting, the mediator will describe how the process works. The mediator will emphasize that it is a confidential process. If the mediation is not successful, the mediator cannot later be called to testify at the court proceedings unless both parties agree to it. There are a few exceptions to the confidentiality rule, for example, if child abuse or neglect is discovered during the mediation sessions, the mediator must report it.

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The mediator must:

    1. Not be  biased and/or side with either spouse;
    2. Not suggest any particular outcome; and
    3. Not provide any legal advice

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If the parties have elected to meet without their attorneys, either party may interrupt the proceedings at any time to consult with their respective attorney. It is extremely important for the parties to appear for every scheduled mediation meeting. If a party fails to appear, the court may order the non-appearing party to pay the fees of the mediator and the attorney fees of the opposing party.

Notification of proposed MSA must be mailed to non-attending attorneys

A successful mediation results in the parties agreeing upon how the issues will be resolved. Their agreement, the MSA, must be put in writing and signed by both parties and their attorneys if the attorneys are present.

If the attorneys are not present, within five days, the mediator must mail the attorneys a copy of the proposed MSA for their review. The attorneys have 10 days from the date of mailing to file objections with the mediator and mail copies of the objections to the other attorney or to the other party if the party does not have legal representation. If no objections are filed, the proposed MSA is filed with the court.

If the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the case proceeds to court and their attorneys continue with discovery and other aspects of the litigation.

If you have any questions regarding the role of mediation in Miami, Florida divorces or the Divorce process in general, give us a call. If we can’t help, we will try to help you find someone that can.