Mediation is a process that takes place within, not separate from, divorce and family law cases in Florida. Judges may refer all contested family law matters to mediation and they almost always do. There are very few exceptions where Judges do not refer cases to mediation.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates a negotiation between the two parties in order to resolve all or some of the issues by agreement. It is often informal, neutral, and is intended to be non-adversarial. Mediation is an opportunity for the parties and their attorneys to resolve any conflicts without a judges’ intervention. But remember, judges usually require parties to go through mediation prior to allowing the parties to have a trial.
A mediation is a confidential event, meaning that all communications during mediation are confidential. What happens at mediation stays at mediation. Participants in a mediation may not later talk about or disclose what was communicated at mediation.
The goal of mediation is to resolve the issues between the parties by agreement and then have the agreement memorialized into a written contract between the parties. Parties are not required to come to an agreement during mediation and failure to agree is referred to as an impasse. Mediation is purely a voluntary process, no one can force anyone to sign an agreement.
While mediation is supposed to be non-adversarial out-of-court process, having an attorney at mediation will improve your chances of coming to a fair settlement. Often times the two parties come to an agreement but do not have the knowledge or skill to fully capture the intent of the agreement in writing. Items may be left out or the agreement may not be enforceable if mistakes are made. A poorly written settlement agreement may cost the parties more in the long run. Consult with an attorney before attending mediation or before signing any settlement agreements. You may be giving up rights you did not even know that you had.